What is the responsibility to respect human rights? Reconsidering the 'respect, protect, and fulfill' framework

Karp, David Jason (2020) What is the responsibility to respect human rights? Reconsidering the 'respect, protect, and fulfill' framework. International Theory, 12 (1). pp. 83-108. ISSN 1752-9719

[img] PDF - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial No Derivatives.

Download (775kB)


The world’s understanding of the action needed to advance human rights is deeply structured by the ‘respect, protect, and fulfill’ framework. But its potential is significantly undermined by a narrow conception of ‘respect’ for human rights. This paper systematically addresses these weaknesses and advances an original alternative. It first provides a historical account of the ‘do no harm’ conception of ‘respect’ in the political context of the late Cold War. It then analyzes this conception’s empirical functioning today, using the example of unauthorized migration along the US–Mexico border. These points illustrate an overarching theoretical argument: the responsibility to respect human rights should be based on a responsibility not to dehumanize, rather than exclusively on a duty to do no harm. This involves the consideration of each person as a moral equal, the elevation of human rights practice as a basis for judgment inside of a moral agent’s self, and the rejection of state-centrism as the basis for all political responsibility. This argument has implications traversing the theory and practice of human rights, including: the ability to translate and embed into practice the new meanings of ‘respect,’ ‘protect,’ and ‘fulfill’; and the need to re-consider the contemporary significance of 1980s liberalism.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: human rights, responsibility, respect, protect and fulfill, harm, humanization, recognition, Charles Taylor
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > International Relations
Research Centres and Groups: Centre for Advanced International Theory
Sussex Rights and Justice Research Centre
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
J Political Science > JZ International relations
K Law > KZ Law of Nations
Depositing User: David Karp
Date Deposited: 07 Oct 2019 11:23
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2020 12:15
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/86750

View download statistics for this item

📧 Request an update