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This chapter frames the discussion that follows by examining the concept of populism, which is debated among political scientists, and the negative effects that populism may produce on internationally recognized human rights. The chapter emphasizes an understanding of populism as a form of politics that employs an exclusionary notion of the people as opposed to disfavored groups that are unworthy and that purports to rule on behalf of the people, whose will should not be constrained. The chapter describes both internal and external effects of populists' rise to power. Domestically, populist governance threatens the human rights of the excluded group, but also poses danger for members of the majority, as leaders seek to entrench themselves in power and undermine checks. Externally, the influence of populism on foreign policy reduces support for the international human rights regime, in a manner that has become increasingly problematic as populists gain power in more countries that previously played key roles in maintaining it.
This concluding essay draws on the insights of earlier chapters and provides the author's own conclusions regarding how monitoring bodies in the human rights system should deal with the challenges created by the current wave of exclusionary populism. As the varied accounts illustrate, one size does not fit all. Moreover, international human rights institutions should not address populism as such, but should rather continue to focus on the specific human rights violations that populism leads to, and on the violations that have contributed to the rise of populism. Meanwhile, human rights institutions should also be attentive to the criticisms that populists have directed against the international human rights system, some of which (as examples show) may be meritorious even within a human rights analysis. These recommendations would not solve the problem that the spread of populism poses, but they would enable human rights institutions to contribute positively toward particular solutions.
The electoral successes of right-wing populists since 2016 have unsettled world politics. The spread of populism poses dangers for human rights within each country, and also threatens the international system for protecting human rights. Human Rights in a Time of Populism examines causes, consequences, and responses to populism in a global context from a human rights perspective. It combines legal analysis with insights from political science, international relations, and political philosophy. Authors make practical recommendations on how the human rights challenges caused by populism should be confronted. This book, with its global scope, international human rights framing, and inclusion of leading experts, will be of great interest to human rights lawyers, political scientists, international relations scholars, actors in the human rights system, and general readers concerned by recent developments.
Human Rights, Democracy, and Legitimacy in a World of Disorder brings together respected scholars from diverse disciplines to examine a trio of key concepts that help to stabilize states and the international order. While used pervasively by philosophers, legal scholars, and politicians, the precise content of these concepts is disputed, and they face new challenges in the conditions of disorder brought by the twenty-first century. This volume will explore the interrelationships and possible tensions between human rights, democracy, and legitimacy, from the philosophical, legal, and political perspectives; as well as the role of these concepts in addressing particular problems such as economic inequality, catastrophic risks posed by new technologies, access to health care, regional governance, and responses to mass migration. Comprising essays arising from an interdisciplinary symposium convened at Harvard Law School in 2016, this volume will examine how these trusted concepts may bring order to the global community.