Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date

2019

Subjects

Security; Human Rights

Abstract

This is the introduction to the second edition of Security and Human Rights (Hart Publishing 2019).

When the first edition of this collection was published in 2007, many scholars were struggling with the question of whether it is possible to reconcile a commitment to human rights with the demands of security in a post-9/11 world. More than a decade later, this fundamental tension remains at the heart of many discussions about the relationship between security and human rights. But in the years that have passed since the first edition, we have also seen the re-emergence of nationalism and xenophobia, a hardening of attitudes towards migrants, and a dramatic increase in Islamophobia in populist security discourse. Combined, these trends mean that the liberal order underpinning the international human rights framework since World War II is now under threat.

Two shifts may be necessary in order to reinvigorate an effective defence of rights in the face of security mandates. First, defenders of human rights must directly and critically engage with emotive claims of insecurity and unrealistic promises of security. Rather than reacting with similarly reductive narratives, we should seek to develop a discourse of sober resilience – one that provides a serious account of the risks to security while acknowledging both the inherent constraints on democratic states in achieving security and the wider security benefits to be gained from protecting rights. Ultimately, this narrative will need to build on a recognition, even a celebration, of the risk that comes with a free society.

The second, related shift involves meaningful acknowledgment of the role that liberalism has played in the historical and continued oppression of vulnerable groups. By addressing the ways in which the law in supposedly liberal democracies has been co-opted in the name of security, we help to lay bare flaws in the individualistic liberal vision of rights and the disconnect between abstract claims of universality and lived experiences on the ground. This process of exposure should not be seen as a step towards the abandonment of the liberal human rights project but rather as part of an attempt to revive it and make it relevant to those who have borne the ‘costs of security’.

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