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The 1993 World Conference on Human Rights and the retreat of a redistributive rights vision
journal contributionposted on 2021-03-18, 00:41 authored by Roland BurkeRoland Burke
Abstract The 1993 UN World Conference on Human Rights, the second held in the history of the UN, and the sequel to the 1968 conference in Tehran, was convened as the faith in the liberal democratic human rights order was renascent. Economic and social rights, one of the dominant notes of Tehran a quarter century earlier, were—in comparative terms—marginal to Western priorities. This paper draws on new archival research to assess the new equilibrium in post-Cold War human rights that emerged from Vienna. The interrelationship between political, civil, and legal freedoms, and economic and social provisions was pared down to mere exhortation. After the transnational ‘Breakthrough’ of human rights NGOs in the 1970s, almost everyone had begun to transliterate their cause to the language of human rights—but it had become a language which required the excision of economic radicalism as a prerequisite for drawing on its newly inflated moral currency.