This May Be Where the Human Rights Movement is Heading


In our latest episode of “On Human Rights,” we sat down with James A. Goldston. He is the executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative and a leading practitioner of international human rights and criminal law.

He has litigated cases before the European court of Human Rights and United Nations treaty bodies. Throughout his career, he has, for instance, worked on issues of counterterrorism, racial discrimination, and torture.

Goldston says the challenges that illiberal movements and leaders pose to human rights is a moment of reckoning for many.

“It’s a moment for self-reflection perhaps on strategies for things we might have pursued or things we’ve overlooked,” he says. “And a moment of genuine possibility for us to reimagine what the human rights movement can be, how it can relate, not just to the grand architecture and formal laws and institutions which are created, which are important, but also to how people experience rights in practice, or the absence of rights in practice.”

Similarly, Goldston believes increasing attention to the connection between the formal laws and institutions and the conditions of people on the ground is where parts of the human rights movement are headed. “And I think that’s a positive thing,” he says.