Dependent emancipation: the mechanisms and paradoxes of travelling human rights policies
(University of Helsinki)
Paper short abstract:
How do human rights policies travel? Building on ethnography from the UN Human Rights Committee, NGOS and Finnish ministries this paper asks this question by focussing on the notion of 'universality' as a decisive dynamic contributing to the 'emancipated dependency' of governance and subjectivities.
Paper long abstract:
How do human rights policies travel; who are the actors that push for their mobility and how are human rights policies adopted in diverse local contexts? This paper discusses these themes by anchoring its inquiry on the NGO reports that accompany the work of the UN Human Rights Committee, the 'most authoritative' UN human rights expert body that oversees how states comply with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Via ethnographic glimpses from the 'centre' of international human rights work - NGO headquarters in Geneva, NGO briefings at UN offices - and scenes from the 'periphery' - namely the offices of local ministries and NGOs in Finland - this paper examines what kind of social relations this mobility both encompasses and generates. It discusses unexpected relationships forged between government representatives and NGO delegates, as well as the role of distinct influential insiders in the process. Building on the past decade of pioneering work on translation, 'vernacularization' and indicators (Merry), audit (Strathern, Cowan, Billaud) as well as broader debates on expertise, accountability and governance, this paper anchors itself around the notion of universality, but with a twist: whereas in much human rights scholarship universality is approached as an intrinsic quality of human rights ideology, this paper casts it both as an empirical outcome of, and a decisive dynamic contributing toward the travel of human rights policies. This paper discusses the kind of governance structures and subjectivities formed by 'universalizing', paraphrasing it as 'emancipated dependency'.
Policy mobility in a globalised world: how ideas and practices of governance and management travel, settle and colonise new domains