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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Human rights in a world of states : global norms and the evolution of political space Lui, Andrew

Abstract

This inquiry explores the tension between state sovereignty and universal human rights. Research is based on the foundational question: are state sovereignty and human rights reconcilable within the framework of international society? This question is then divided into three discrete questions, along the topics of normative theory, international organization and norm change, which are dealt with in three respective chapters. Chapter One problematizes the moral purpose of the sovereign state, how it has changed and continues to change over time, and how global norms of human rights have introduced constraints on state sovereignty, both de jure and de facto. Global norms of human rights are essentially gaining power because the protection of the fundamental unit of political agency—the individual human being—is the present most effective means to ensure the fundamental values of political equality and diversity in the international realm. Chapter Two follows by explaining how changes in the moral purpose of the state translate into changes in international organization. This chapter reveals that both centralized and decentralized authorities structure international society. The case of international law and the International Criminal Court (ICC) is used to provide empirical evidence of structures of international vertical and horizontal legitimacy that fall into the latter typology and thereby structure international political behaviour. Chapter Three surveys the question of human rights entrepreneurship. It builds upon the successes and shortcomings of existing constructivist discourse to show how human rights entrepreneurs can induce norm change through the pedagogical techniques of norm life cycles. This thesis attempts to offer a more accurate conceptual account of change in international relations.

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