Read On! ‘Human Security and Human Rights under International Law: The Protections Offered to Persons Confronting Structural Vulnerability’

I am thrilled to post for the first time in IntLawGrrls and to share the publication of my book Human Security and Human Rights under International Law: The Protections Offered to Persons Confronting Structural Vulnerability (Hart Publishing, 2016).

This book considers the potential of human security as a protective tool within the international law of human rights. Indeed, it seems surprising given the centrality of human security to the human experience, that its connection with human rights had not yet been explored in a truly systematic way. The book attempts to address that gap in the literature and sustains that the human rights of persons, particularly those facing structural vulnerability, can be addressed more adequately if studied through the complementary lens of human security and not under human rights law alone. It takes both a legal and interdisciplinary approach, recognizing that human security and its relationship with human rights cuts across disciplinary boundaries.

Human security with its axis of freedom from fear, from want and from indignity, can more integrally encompass the inter-connected risks faced by individuals and groups in vulnerable conditions. At the same time, human rights law provides the normative legal grounding usually lacking in human security. International human rights norms, individualistic in nature and firstly enacted more than sixty years ago, present limits which translate into lack of protection for people globally. As a result, the collective and contextual conditions undergone by persons can be better met through the broader and more recent notion of human security, which emphasizes ‘critical (severe) and pervasive (widespread) threats’, and accentuates socioeconomic vulnerabilities as authentic security concerns. Indeed, as signaled by Sadako Ogata, human security is ‘the emerging paradigm for understanding global vulnerabilities’.

The analysis follows a two-part approach. Firstly, it evaluates convergences between human security and all human rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural –and constructs a general framework for thought and action, the ‘human security – human rights synergy’. Secondly, it goes on to explore the practical application of this framework in the law and case-law of UN, European, Inter-American and African human rights bodies in the thematic cores of 1) violence against women and girls (VAW); 2) undocumented migrants and other non-citizens such as asylum-seekers and refugees; converging in 3) a particular examination of the conditions of female undocumented migrants. In the last chapter, the book systematizes this evidence to reveal and propose added values of human security to human rights law; and inversely, it indicates how human rights standards/indicators can deliver a needed more precise, normatively grounded and operational conception of human security.

These ‘interpretative synergies’ offer promise for shifting the boundaries of international human rights law: in constructing integrative approaches to fill legal gaps, better prevention and addressing protectively collective threats, and –in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights- creating an ‘enabling environment’ to fulfil all human rights, especially for those not only confronting isolated moments of risk or individual human rights violations, but rather conditions of structural vulnerability affecting their everyday lives.

Articulated by UN and regional bodies more than 20 years ago, human security’s person-centered character and its ‘protection’ and ‘empowerment’ strategies, suggest communicating bridges with human rights law. Thus, this book critically evaluates the expressions of human security-human rights interaction in international law, particularly human rights law. Then it extrapolates the elements of such intersection to construct the framework focused on the (gendered) human security-human rights synergy.

The first thematic core of the book, VAW, is one of the most pervasive and widespread threats to a great sector of the population –more than half worldwide-, even in well-off and/or democratic societies, otherwise considered ‘peaceful’. The second thematic core, risk conditions faced by undocumented migrants, also connects to most countries in the world, whether as sending, transit or host societies. It poses legal questions at the conceptual level in terms of the universality of human rights when considered in light of legal migratory status. Challenges emerge also in the practical sphere, whilst the lack of protection towards undocumented migrants has been aggravated with the economic crises in the US and Europe, together with new interrogations derived from the current exponential migratory flows from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, mostly to Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon and to a lesser extent, to EU countries. Both themes meet again in a combined topic of review, namely, the heightened risks and vulnerabilities faced by undocumented migrant women and girls, and the particular compounded forms of discrimination and violence they experience.

In light of recent happenings, the book may also contribute to palliate the need of more just, innovative, and coordinated proposals to address the fragile situation of undocumented migrants, several of them potential refugees, and their increased vulnerability to exploitation and violence. The appalling tragedy of thousands of persons who have died at sea trying to reach the Mediterranean Coast, dramatically escalating in 2015 and 2016, or the mass graves of migrants discovered in northern Mexico or Malaysia, account for the global scale of the risks faced by people on the move which urgently require new solutions. I contend that legal human rights alone, accentuating mainly individual entitlements, are not enough to attend their situation. It has become an issue of justice to tackle these threats with auxiliary and matching approaches: human security-inspired policy changes and normative reforms may provide widespread solutions to a widespread situation.

In addressing these issues, the book also attempts to move away from the focus on ‘peak moments of crisis’ often applied in international law, and rather react to the quotidian structures of conflict and distribution embedded in the economic, cultural and political global order. Concern within this book has thus been directed more to what Hilary Charlesworth has termed ‘the international law of everyday life’.

A final heartfelt thanks to IntLawGrrl Professor Christine Chinkin, Professors Martin Scheinin and Ruth Rubio Marin, and ICJ Judge Antônio Augusto Cançado Trindade, who generously suggested changes to the PhD thesis which were enormously helpful to turn it into the book presented today.

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One thought on “Read On! ‘Human Security and Human Rights under International Law: The Protections Offered to Persons Confronting Structural Vulnerability’

  1. Pingback: Introducing Dorothy Estrada-Tanck | IntLawGrrls

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