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2.1.1 Where did the attempt to define notions of rights internationally come from?

To some extent, this ideology of rights was new because it was expressed at the international level with new vigour, with the horrors of the Second World War and the calculated extermination of Jews, gypsies and others in mind. The discourse of individual rights had a stronger impact on international politics than at any time previously, as did the notion of a right to national self-determination. Yet this new departure for international politics also built upon ideas about rights that had be
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2.1 Background to the idea of international rights

The UN Charter and the Declaration form part of a post-Second World War international settlement which established, on the one side, the formal legitimating ideology of the international system, national self-determination and sovereign equality and, on the other, the ideology of universal human rights. The appeal of this set of claims was the hope that different peoples could live together in peace and security. It was an attempt to accommodate difference (through the idea of national self-d
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1 International human rights: an introduction

There are many examples of claims for rights in the international sphere.

One example was reported in September 2002. The British government was asked to make efforts to have a British man held by the Americans at Guantanamo Bay deported to Britain to face charges of terrorism there in connection with the attacks on 11 September 2001. Concerns were expressed about the denial of this man's human rights at Guantanamo Bay. Are alleged terrorists entitled to human rights? Can the denial of
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Learning outcomes

By the end of this unit you should be able to:

  • understand the different interpretations of internationally recognised notions of rights and justice;

  • give examples of implementing justice in an international sphere;

  • investigate questions in international studies;

  • analyse the different agencies of change in the international system.


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Introduction

This unit is about rights and rights claims, and the idea of implementing justice in the international sphere based on the concept of rights. It is agreed by most people that ‘rights are a good thing’ and in many respects they are. However, this unit deliberately takes a critical view. It seeks to examine closely why rights are a good thing and highlights some of the problems associated with rights. In this way, we hope that the sense in which rights are still, ultimately, ‘a good thing
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Module team

The Open University course team

Course Team Chair of Production

Gillian Rose, Professor of Cultural Geography

Course Team Chair of Presentation

Chris Brook, Senior Lecturer in Geography

External Assessor

Peter Jackson, Professor of Human Geography, University of Sheffield

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Acknowledgements

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Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following sources for permission to reproduce material within this book.

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References

Allen, J. (2006) ‘Claiming connections: a distant world of sweatshops?’ in Barnett, C., Robinson, J. and Rose, G. (eds) A Demanding World, Milton Keynes, The Open University.
Barnes, D.K.A. (2002) ‘Invasions by marine life on plastic debris’, Nature, vol. 416, 25 April, pp. 808–9.
Barnett, C. (2006) ‘Reaching out: the demands of citizenship in a
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5 Conclusion

The issue of climate change draws attention to the power of human activity to transform the planet in its entirety, and it is brought into sharp focus by the predicament of low-lying islands like Tuvalu. As we have seen in this unit, the issue of rising sea level and other potential impacts of changing global climate also point to the transformations in the physical world that occur even without human influence. Oceanic islands provide a particularly cogent reminder that the living things wit
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4.3 Dilemmas of climate change

In Section 4.1, we looked at claims that climatic change thousands of years ago triggered the movement of people into the ocean, eventually leading to the settling of islands like Tuvalu. We have also seen that these islands only rose out of the ocean because of dynamic geological processes coupled with dramatic changes i
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4.2 Shifting ground

In Section 3 and in Section 4 so far, we have begun with the questions of how and why humans found their way to oceanic islands, and how other living
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4.1 When climate changes

We have seen that human-induced climate change poses a challenge for people who live on islands. Such changing patterns and extremes of climate also put pressure on the other living things that are part of the make-up of island territories. However, long before human beings became aware that they could transform the flows that constitute climate, they and other species were already taking advantage of these same flows to help create the very territories that are now under threat. But have the
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3.2 Migrations of life

As biologist and pioneer environmentalist Rachel Carson once wrote: ‘the stocking of the islands has been accomplished by the strangest migration in earth's history – a migration that began long before man appeared on earth and is still continuing’ (Carson, 1953, p. 66). Austronesian voyagers may have been the first people to venture far into open water, but many other species, as Carson suggests, have also found ways of negotiating passages across the ocean. Arriving at pockets of land
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3.1 Voyages of discovery and settlement

In Section 2, we saw that there are momentous new and recently transformed flows that are impacting on island territories. Some flows have important precedents, and others may not be quite as novel as they first appear. In this section, we look more closely at some of the flows that have helped make, remake and sometimes
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2.4 Worlds in motion: the importance of flows

‘The sea had welled up suddenly through thousands of tiny holes in this atoll's bedrock of coral.’ Do you recall this passage in Lynas's (2003) account of his first days on Tuvalu in Reading 1A? For me, this gives an impression of the islands being quite literally porous, a solid ground that reveals itself, now and again, to be not so solid after all. Lynas offers this particularly striking example of the island's openness to the world around it as evidence of a growing vulnerability that
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2.3 Divisions that matter: thinking through territories

Without losing our focus on the planet as a whole, it is time now to return to what Paani Laupepa from Tuvalu refers to as the ‘front line’ of climate change: those islands that are particularly vulnerable to rising sea level and associated climatic hazards (Lynas, 2003). It has often been said that low-lying coral islands like Tuvalu or Kiribas in the Pacific Ocean, or the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, are acting as a kind of early warning system for global climate change. Sea level is e
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2.2 Climate change in a globalised world

As you will recall from Reading 1A, the people of Tuvalu are now arguing that larger and more affluent nations should take responsibility for the climatic changes threatening their country. As Paani Laupepa from the Tuvalu environment ministry put it: ‘We are on the front line … through no fault of our own. The industrialised countries caused the problem, but we are suffering the consequences’ (Lynas, 2003). Before we look more closely at this charge, and the scientific evidence that is
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2.1 Issues of responsibility

The aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami saw an unprecedented aid effort to assist the affected regions. In the early days after the disaster, pledges of financial assistance from overseas governments were often outstripped by the generosity of their own populaces. This was a case when ordinary people around the world saw and were moved by the tragic circumstances of others far away (Rose, 2006), and they responded with gifts of money and provisions, and even with offers of their own sk
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1 Dividing the planet

A good globe can set you back quite a lot of money. Of course, I don't mean the little moulded plastic planets or the globes you can blow up as if the world were a beach ball, but the decent sized ones that sit solidly on turned wooden bases and quietly emanate authority from the corner of a room. Yet these days, it hardly seems worthwhile making such an investment. Countries appear to change their colour, their shape or their name with remarkable rapidity.

It has become a cliché to po
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Learning outcomes

After studying this unit you should be able to:

  • understand how the world is in the process of ‘being made’, right down to the earth beneath our feet;

  • consider how islands are shaped by a dynamic relationship between territories and flows;

  • show how human life is entangled with non-human forces and processes in the making of today's globalised world.


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