Human Rights and Foreign Policy - 7th Joint Human Rights Conference

Human Rights and Foreign Policy - 7th Joint Human Rights Conference
22 June 2020, 9.00am - 24 June 2020, 5.00pm
Bloomsbury, London

Human Rights and Foreign Policy

7th Joint Human Rights Conference

22-24 June 2020

University of London

Organized by:

Human Rights Consortium, University of London

Human Rights Section, International Studies Association (ISA)

Human Rights Section, American Political Science Association (APSA)

Human Rights Research Committee, International Political Science Association (IPSA)

Standing Group on Human Rights and Transitional Justice, European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR)

In light of geopolitical rebalancing of power, challenges to human rights from a number of quarters, and waning international support for human rights, the role of human rights in foreign policy requires urgent investigation. For human rights to thrive internationally, states need to support them not only domestically but also in their foreign policies, both in their bilateral relations and multilaterally. Yet, there is significant divergence of practice. Clear challenges appear in the policies of traditional supporters of human rights. This includes actions of the Trump administration on multiple fronts, as well as European states and the EU as a whole. European policy on refugees, for example, severely threatens basic international norms. And UK support for Saudi Arabia even as it carries on a murderous war in Yemen highlights hypocrisy.

Whereas a certain set of middle powers have traditionally been supporters of human rights internationally, and have explicitly incorporated human rights into their foreign policies, emerging powers in the developing world represent a much more diverse set of actors and perspectives on human rights and international institutions which, while providing opportunities for new kinds of engagement, also pose significant challenges.

Much of the work on human rights and foreign policy has focused on one state in particular – the United States – although there is increasing focus on the European Union, and there is clearly a need for much broader investigation and analysis, and broad-based comparative studies are scarce. Thus, an overarching question for the conference is: in 2020, what does foreign policy support for human rights look like?

Potential questions to be addressed during the conference include:

  • Are the traditional supporters of human rights internationally changing their support?
  • What opportunities and challenges does the emergence of new regional and global powers provide?
  • What are the internal and external processes which drive state support (or not) for human rights internationally?
  • What theoretical approaches best explain human rights foreign policies?
  • How do material and ideational factors influence and shape human rights foreign policies?
  • What role do emerging powers play in driving (or constraining) human rights internationally, and what are the similarities and differences between their positions?
  • How do we situate international organisation actors like the European Union or the African Union which have some state-like characteristics internationally – or at least have such ambitions?
  • What role might sub-state political actors play in supporting human rights internationally?
  • How do transnational civil society networks affect state human rights foreign policies?
  • Are there divergences between states’ bilateral and multilateral human rights policies?
  • Can we identify a state of the art in empirical research on human rights-related foreign policy?

This is the 7th in a series of joint human rights conferences sponsored by the human sections of several international professional organizations, this time co-organised with, and hosted by, the Human Rights Consortium, University of London. The formal call for papers/panels will be released in August, with the submission deadline in November. In the meantime, subscribe to the official twitter feed of the conference  (@hrjc2020) and the Human Rights Consortium twitter feed (@HRC_News) for updates. We look forward to seeing you in London in June 2020!


Human Rights Consortium