Philip Alston on “Neoliberalism and Human Rights: The Role of Human Rights Watch”


One of the most consistent and telling lines of criticism of the international human rights movement in recent years is that it has had all too little to say in response to the rise and rise of neoliberal economic policies, especially as inequality has grown dramatically. While states and international organizations have been key players in shaping this response, non-governmental organizations have also played a leading role.  This lecture considers the contribution made by Human Rights Watch, a successful and influential organization whose policies have been the subject of  little scholarly analysis.

Philip Alston is John Norton Pomeroy Professor of Law at New York University Law School, and UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. He was UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions (2004-10), Chairperson of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1991-98), Independent Expert on reform of the UN human rights treaty body system (1989-97), Special Advisor to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Millennium Development Goals (2004-07), a member of the Security Council Commission of Inquiry on the Central African Republic, and participated in the Independent International Commission on Kyrgyzstan.


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