In this roundtable, Gerald L. Neuman (Harvard Law School) discusses human rights in the context of populism.
Populism can be understood as a politics that employs an exclusionary notion of the people – the “real people,” as opposed to unworthy groups – and that purports to rule on behalf of the “real people,” whose will should not be constrained. Populist governance threatens the human rights of the excluded, but also poses danger for members of the majority. Externally, populism undermines the international human rights regime, especially as populists gain power in countries that were key supporters.
How then should human rights monitoring bodies deal with these challenges? They should not address populism as such, but rather focus on specific violations that populism leads to, and those that have contributed to the rise of populism. Meanwhile, human rights bodies should be attentive to criticisms by populists, some of which may be meritorious. These recommendations would not “solve” the problem of populism, but would help the bodies contribute toward particular solutions.
Discussants: Michael Zürn (WZB, Global Governance)
Mattias Kumm (WZB, Center for Global Constitutionalism/NYU School of Law)
Chair: Johanna Hase (WZB, International Citizenship Law)