Attainments, Eclipses and Disciplinary Renewal in International Human Rights Law

A Critical Overview

Authored by: Obiora Chinedu Okafor

Routledge Handbook of International Law

Print publication date:  December  2008
Online publication date:  January  2009

Print ISBN: 9780415418768
eBook ISBN: 9780203884621
Adobe ISBN: 9781134113095


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This chapter provides a critical overview of the contemporary state of the international human rights law discipline. It does so chiefly through the explication of patterns revealed and insights gained by training three kinds of conceptual lens on the texts, discourses, contexts, and praxis of the discipline. These lenses are devoted to the capture and assessment of the attainments that have uplifted the discipline, the eclipses that trouble it, and the bouts of disciplinary renewal that it has experienced from time to time as it struggles with the possibility or otherwise of enduring self-transformation. The chapter maps and examines, albeit in a measured way, the attainments that have advanced the discipline to date; teases out and explicates most of the eclipses ( full or partial) that have inhibited the discipline’s optimization; explores what is referred to in the paper as the dualistic deep structure of human rights, and the relationship of this deep structure to the characteristics and ultimate utility (or otherwise) of the discipline’s constant drive to renew itself. In the end, it is suggested that while human rights’ renewal has, of course, always been possible, even the entailed ebb and flow of the zone or band of international human rights protection, the observable expansion and contraction of the borders of the living human rights law, and the mobility of the boundary of protection that human rights offers, does not erase entirely the margin that is too often inhabited by those who have been left in (nay, shifted to) the human rights cold. This is why the discipline is in danger of being unable to achieve real sustained transformation in our time.

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