On Friday, February 18, 2022, Professor Kenneth Anderson from American University and former member of the U.S. Commission on Unalienable Rights spoke to the Human Rights Masters students. He spoke about human rights efforts from 1945, when the “world was in ruins,” through today, when we find ourselves with the New World Order idea being proposed by global institutions of law and human rights.
Today, a lot of people consider rights to be a reflection of subjective preferences. This is a change from the human rights initiative originally articulated by the human rights efforts in the 1940s. Further, he mentioned human rights abuses in Communist states and how by the end of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe people became “exhausted” of the ideas that were originally used as propaganda (such as the “dialectic”). Thus, those governments enforced “softer” sanctions against people with different ideas from the Communist government. These included sending such people to psychiatric wards after declaring them mentally ill, being fired from work, or preventing such people’s kids from going to school. These things are still human rights violations; however, they were “softer” means of enforcement than labor camps or shootings.
Professor Anderson also spoke about the work to which he and his wife were committed in the end of the 1970s and the 1980s in Central America, where wars were breaking out. As a result of broadening the “focus” from East v. West, human rights groups became “universal.” Such an example is the Helsinki Watch becoming the Human Rights Watch in order to monitor civil and political rights in Central America. In sum, Professor Anderson gave an overview of the development of the human rights movement. It has developed in ways never intended by its originators, and one purpose of the Commission was to try to bring it back to its secure foundations. His lecture allowed students to get a sense of the Human Rights movement as it evolved since World War II.