Open Democracy | April 18, 2017Read the Publication
While conservative populist nationalism surged in the last year, I do not agree that its ascendance was inevitable. But I do believe that the human rights community writ large—from North and South alike—must grasp this opportunity to turn to a praxis grounded in struggles against abuses of power, of all sorts. The word “praxis” suggests the need to connect philosophical ideas and theory with real-life experience and action in the political world, yet there is a tendency at this time to be defensive or critical of the human rights discourse, and neither of these positions fully captures empirical realities. There are equally tendencies to argue that the way forward is to focus on national, grass-roots movements or, alternatively, to reinforce a rules-based internationalism. I do not pretend to know—or even think that—there is a single path forward. But I do fervently believe that the justified alarm around recent events provides an opportunity for profound reflection on human rights theory and practice that cannot be wasted.