Chapter 2Re-appraising the Significance of ‘Third-Generation’ Rights in a Globalised World

in Human Rights and Power in Times of Globalisation
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Some forty years after they some of them were initially proposed, so-called ‘third-generation’ rights – including rights to development and a healthy environment – have not gained the traction may would have hoped. Meanwhile, the gap between the mainstream human rights regime and some of the most pressing humanitarian issues of the twenty-first century appears to be growing. Problems of crushing poverty, radical inequality, pervasive economic and structural violence, climate change and ecological collapse often seem to elude protections of earlier generations of rights. In this chapter, I will argue that if further development of and acceptance of third-generation rights as ‘real rights’ is not without challenges, their effective dismissal in many quarters during previous decades represented a wrong turn. Renewed engagement with third-generation rights is critical for at least three reasons: (1) they can help to address grave threats to human security in the changing landscape of the twenty-first century; (2) they challenge traditional conceptual boundaries of human rights law that may help push the field forward in ways better adapted to a globalised world; and (3) forging greater consensus around the meaning and significance of third-generation rights would help further a sense of human rights as a shared global project. While taming power in times of globalisation is a task with many dimensions, revitalising the debate around third-generation rights should be an important part of the landscape.

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