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The Future of Human Rights: Law, Politics, and Social Justice in a Multipolar, Multimedia World

Human rights law and practice are being transformed by geopolitical, technological and economic forces that unsettle the actors, strategies, and legal standards that dominated the field in the twentieth century. In this seminar, we will take stock of key global developments that underlie such a transformation, and analyze their impact on the future of human rights, as follows: nn1. The rise of emerging powers (such as Brazil, China and India) and the relative decline of Europe and the U.S. point to a multipolar world order. Together with the proliferation of international regulations (such as transnational corporations' codes of conduct, legal standards advanced by coalitions of NGOs, and decisions of international bodies such as the WTO and UN agencies), this trend results in a legal and political arena that is both broader and more fragmented. In this new context, states and NGOs in the Global North no longer control the creation and implementation of human rights standards, while new actors (from transnational social movements to Global South states and NGOs) emerge as influential voices. nn2. Information and communication technologies present new challenges and opportunities for human rights. As the mobilizations catalyzed by the Arab Spring have shown, tools such as social networks, video documentaries, digital reporting, online learning and long-distance education can accelerate political change, reduce the informational disadvantages suffered by marginalized groups, and bring together national, regional and global groups capable of making a direct impact on the protection of rights. nn3. The range of actors and legal and political strategies has been considerably expanded. Time-honored strategies such as naming and shaming recalcitrant states are being complemented with newer strategies for transnational research, information circulation, and training, which involve a host of different actors, including social movements, online media outlets, inter-governmental organizations, universities and virtual activist networks.nnThe seminar will be divided into three sections, each dealing with one of these transformations. Each section, in turn, will be divided into two discussion sessions and one lecture by a leading scholar and/or practitioner.nnThe seminar will revolve around the discussion of the assigned readings and materials, as well as presentations by students and guest speakers. Grades will be based on an in-class presentation and a final paper.