Universiteit Leiden

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Realizing rights: people, politics and place

  • Professor Barbara Oomen
Friday 16 June 2017
Kamerlingh Onnes Building
Steenschuur 25
2311 ES Leiden

Human rights are under pressure these days, with critics questioning their relevance, legitimacy and effectiveness. At the same time, the worldwide appeal of this ‘global moral lingua franca’ remains remarkable. In this lecture, Barbara Oomen shows how human rights research does not only concern standard setting and case law, but has increasingly focused on processes of implementation. She discusses the wealth of recent socio-legal research on the relevance of people, politics and place in realizing human rights, and formulates a theory on how to strengthen these processes. Far from focusing only on the technical, at times abstract language of the treaties formulated in New York and Geneva, and their interpretation within the courts, those with an interest in human rights should also consider the processes of negotiation and translation of these rights at the local level, and critically question the relevance of rights to lived realities. Moving from struggles in the global South to the rise of human rights cities in the North, she shares insights in who makes that human rights matter, where and how. Understanding these processes, after all, is crucial to understanding how, in a world still far from the utopian vision in the Universal Declaration, rights become realities.

Barbara Oomen holds a chair in the Sociology of Human Rights at Utrecht University, and teaches at University College Roosevelt in Middelburg. In the academic year 2016-2017, she works at the European University Institute in Florence. She wrote her PhD on traditional leadership and customary law in South African at Leiden University’s Van Vollenhoven Institute and has, over the past years, published on topics ranging from the legitimacy of international criminal law to the home-coming of human rights in the Netherlands. In 2017, she will start a research project funded by NWO/Vici, entitled 'Cities of refuge: local authorities and the human rights of refugees in Europe'.

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