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No-No Guide to Human Rights

By Olivia Ball and Paul Gready

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The No-Nonsense Guide to Human Rights is the perfect starting point for anyone wanting to get into human rights, with plenty to interest the seasoned activist. Written by experienced practitioners and human rights educators, this is a power-packed pocket handbook of history, philosophy, politics, law and more - all the essentials to understanding and using our knowledge of human rights, from the basics of what our rights are, to how to beat world leaders at their own game.

It examines important critiques of human rights, from feminists and Marxists to cultural relativists and tackles contemporary controversies making headlines. Should rights be sacrificed in the fight against terrorism? Can torturers perform a public service? Should human rights take precedence over the environment? What good are rights for famine victims, or tsunami survivors? What do rights have to say about the misery and injustice caused by corporations? What about rights violated in the home? Do refugees have rights? Why should Donald Rumsfeld consult his lawyers before holidaying abroad? Is a just peace possible? Or a just war? Moreover, how can rights be made real?

This guide for the 21st century examines the emerging terrain of global civil society, covering cutting-edge approaches to activism as well as the tried and true techniques - and their pitfalls. You will find out how to take a complaint to the United Nations, where to find the treaties your government has signed but might wish it hadn't, and to compile a shadow report when your country's human rights performance is assessed at the highest levels. Read about how to secure international support for your campaign and successful ways activists have avoided being killed. The text is enlivened with real-life stories from around the world: the voices of peopleliving the daily reality of human rights violation and those who take on the abusers. An activist's and owner's manual of compelling importance to today's world.

Diagrams, charts and graphs used throughout to illustrate key information.

ISBN / Barcode: 9781904456452

Product features
  • An excellent primer on dignity and human rights
  • 110 x 180 mm, paperback
  • 144 pages

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As books on human rights proliferate, this slim volume stands out as a sensibly condensed guide on the subject, reducing such iconic works as Steiner & Alston's International Human Rights in Context to readable proportions.

In tracing the historic development of human rights, the authors note that they existed long before they were recognised by international law in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In particular, the authors identify historical examples of human rights principles in all cultures and religions, taking the reader back to the contributions of the ancient Greek philosophers, Aquinas, Jean-Jaques Rousseau, Thomas Jefferson and Karl Marx.

In such a compact book as this, one would not be surprised to find that the authors have shied away from difficult and complex issues, but this is not the case. Problems that plague human rights discourse, such as universality versus cultural relativism, and whether human rights should be sacrificed for security, are addressed. One of the attractions of this volume is that it is inter-disciplinary - it is about human rights, not just human rights law. Thus Chapter 5 begins with the observation that “Law is not the only, or even the most important means to assert rights and seek redress for their violation”. This chapter then explores non-legal avenues that victims of human rights abuses can pursue, including an analysis of the part played by civil society, truth commissions, ombudsmen and national human rights institutions. The authors also address the powerful role that human rights education can play in building a culture of human rights.

While this scholarly volume does not claim to add anything new to the existing literature, it is by far the best condensed summation of the modern human rights movement anywhere. In addition, the foreword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu reflecting on the human rights struggles of his South Africa makes moving reading. With human rights legislation in place in the ACT and Victoria, and the current proposal to introduce a Federal Human Rights Act, there is a growing need for awareness and understanding of human rights. This book will be a useful tool in that quest for greater knowledge.

Paula Gerber - Deputy Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University

I am full of admiration for the richness and variety packed in to a relatively short text. I only wish that I'd had something like this to read when I was starting out! I'm recommending it to all my students.

Dr Brian Phillips, Senior Lecturer in Human Rights Practice, Oxford Brookes University

An indispensible exploration of human rights in our time, not only for beginners, but also, I suspect, for many activists who will be challenged by the complexity with which this guide addresses our current dilemmas.

Ariel Dorfman, Chilean writer and human rights activist

Accessible without becoming superficial, Ball and Gready have an engaging style and impressive command of this important subject. More than simply a practitioner's handbook, The No-Nonsense Guide to Human Rights makes an intellectual contribution of its own to the field. This pocket-sized book is important reading for the novice and equally useful for the seasoned human rights practitioner.

Mary Robinson, President, Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002), President of Ireland (1990-1997)

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