Why we cannot truly implement human rights unless we also recognize human responsibilities
When we debate questions in international law, politics, and justice, we often use the language of rights—and far less often the language of responsibilities. Human rights scholars and activists talk about state responsibility for rights, but they do not articulate clear norms about other actors’ obligations. In this book, Kathryn Sikkink argues that we cannot truly implement human rights unless we also recognize and practice the corresponding human responsibilities.
Focusing on five areas—climate change, voting, digital privacy, freedom of speech, and sexual assault—and providing many examples of on‑the‑ground initiatives where people choose to embrace a close relationship between rights and responsibilities, Sikkink argues for the importance of responsibilities to any comprehensive understanding of political ethics and human rights.
About the Author
Kathryn Sikkink is the Ryan Family Professor of Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
“Kathryn Sikkink articulates a powerful case for forward-looking individual and collective responsibilities as essential for the enjoyment of rights.”—Robert O. Keohane, author of After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy
"In this brave and important book, a leading scholar of human rights reopens the debate about responsibilities in relation to rights and outlines the collective normative work needed to deal with the most challenging issues of our time."--Joseph S. Nye, Jr., author of Do Morals Matter? Presidents and Foreign Policy from FDR to Trump
"One of the world's greatest authorities on international human rights, Kathryn Sikkink boldly reframes a politicized debate. This book reinvigorates the critical understanding that individual liberty depends on duties to community and polity, just as the common good depends on free individuals"—Martha Minow, Harvard University