Promoting Human Rights in U.S. Foreign Policy

April 15, 2021
11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. EDT
Location: Online Zoom Webinar

A variety of pressures have pushed human rights to the margins of recent foreign policy discussions. Continuing skepticism about the normative, universal grounds of human rights discourse casts doubt on their cross-cultural applicability. Recent critics have also claimed that human rights are simply ineffective mechanisms to promote equality or protect human well-being. The surge of nationalist and isolationist foreign policy worldwide de-prioritized human rights concerns and left vulnerable persons exposed to political and physical dangers. The change of leadership in the United States signals an opportunity for transforming human rights policy and implementation.

This event sought to identify the key issues about human rights today and surface questions that need to be addressed if human rights promotion is to be improved in coming years. The discussion particularly focused on the viability and effectiveness of promoting human rights in future U.S. foreign policy. A panel of experts included Rev. David Hollenbach, S.J., whose teaching and research deals with human rights from the standpoint of Catholic social thought, theology, and the social sciences; David Little, a leading authority on the history of religious freedom, ethics, and human rights; Nicole Bibbins Sedaca, who served for 10 years in the United States Department of State, working on democracy promotion and human rights; and former ambassador Mark Lagon, whose work has focused on human rights, global health, and democracy promotion. Judd Birdsall, project director of the Transatlantic Policy Network on Religion and Diplomacy (TPNRD) and a senior research fellow at the Berkley Center, moderated the discussion. Managing Director of the Berkley Center, Michael Kessler, introduced the event.

This event was hosted by Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and co-sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy and Master of Science in Foreign Service program.

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