In Johnny Antonio Davilà (ed.), Cuestiones de justicia global. Valencia: pp. 125-150 (2020)

Cindy Holder
University of Victoria
International human rights concepts and documents figure prominently within theories of global justice. Appeals to human rights often rely on theories and interpretations that rank human rights in relation to one another designating some as more important or more crucial than others such that they may or must be given priority. In this paper I argue that hierarchical ranking of human rights should be rejected by theorists of global justice because such ranking: (a) undermines the effectiveness with which human rights operate as principled constraints on state actors; and (b) is inconsistent with the international legal framework and practice from which the human rights concepts and documents draw their rhetorical force. Instead theorists of global justice should accept the indivisibility principle, which states that all human rights are interrelated and interdependent and must be treated on the same footing and given the same emphasis. The attraction of hierarchical ordering rests on misguided concerns about the practicality of indivisibility that fail to properly distinguish between rights and claims and ignore important dimensions of human rights implementation and assessment. I argue that indivisibility is both pragmatically defensible, provides a better theoretical grounding for understanding complaints about violations, and offers a better framework for understanding the relationship between human rights and legitimacy than hierarchical ordering.
Keywords human rights  global justice  indivisibility  international legitimacy  international justice
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