Globally, human rights remain under attack, whether by populist movements desperate to gain power or authoritarian governments eager to maintain it. Technology has opened up new frontiers for curbing people’s ability to express and share dissenting ideas. And broad assaults are underway on institutions like the International Criminal Court, which was established not only to offer recourse for the victims of rights violations, but to establish an international human rights benchmark. Instead, respect for human rights is being replaced by a dangerous intolerance.
Around the world, populist authoritarians have built their movements by demonizing minorities. In Brazil, for instance, President Jair Bolsonaro has reveled in his provocations, calling into question women’s rights as well as those of the LGBT and indigenous communities. In Poland, incumbent President Andrzej Duda recently ran for reelection—and won—on an explicitly anti-LGBT platform.
Meanwhile, in China, the central government is carrying out an organized campaign in Xinjiang to strip the predominantly Muslim ethnic Uighur population of its cultural identity, including through the use of concentration camps and forced labor. And in Venezuela, the government of President Nicolas Maduro was recently accused by investigators for the U.N. Human Rights Council of having engaged in crimes against humanity, targeting political dissenters with arbitrary detention, torture and extralegal killings.
At the same time, the populist rise has invigorated civil society efforts to protect historically marginalized communities, including members of the LGBT community, religious minorities and indigenous groups. And with the emergence of a tougher line on China in the U.S., but also in Europe, governments are beginning to impose sanctions on Chinese officials and enterprises involved in the abuses in Xinjiang.
WPR has covered human rights issues in detail and continues to examine key questions about new developments. What are the most effective ways to protect human rights, and what additional steps might be taken? What role will technology play in both preserving and circumscribing human rights? And how will changes in the international order and global balance of power affect the human rights landscape?
After China imposed a new national security law on Hong Kong in June, observers feared for the death of the city’s vibrant culture. Yet Hong Kong is still alive, with subtler forms of creative defiance emerging and a society determined to preserve its identity and every last one of its liberties.
Political Dissent and Press Freedom
The resurgence of populist authoritarian regimes around the world has taken a toll on a range of freedoms related to democracy, including freedom of speech, freedom to express political dissent and freedom of the press. In addition to facing crackdowns and arrest, government critics and the press are increasingly targeted by so-called fake news laws that are often a cover for censorship. At the same time, new spyware technologies have made surveillance more effective—and more accessible to repressive regimes with a record of silencing their critics.
- Why Egypt is rushing through a last-minute crackdown on rights advocates before President-elect Joe Biden takes office, in Bracing for Biden, Egypt’s Sisi Opens a ‘Full-Fledged Attack’ on Human Rights
- How Biden can restore America’s role as a global defender of human rights, in Making America Decent Again: Biden and the Future of U.S. Human Rights Policy
- How governments are taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to expand their surveillance powers and crack down on online dissent, in How the Pandemic Is Accelerating a ‘Splintering of the Internet’
- What Myanmar’s recent election says about its once-promising democratic opening, in A Sham Election May Be the ‘Nail in the Coffin’ for Democracy in Myanmar
Religious Minorities and Ethnic Minorities
Attacks last year in the United States, New Zealand and Sri Lanka point to a worrying rise of violent intolerance for religious minorities. But even where violence remains the exception to the rule, protections for religious minorities around the world are often more de jure than de facto. Meanwhile, the recent demonstrations protesting police violence against Black people in the U.S. have put racism in the spotlight worldwide.
- How France’s public schools have become ground zero in its debates over secularism and Islamist radicalization, in In France, Teachers Tasked With Fighting Radicalization Face an Impossible Job
- What’s driving recent protests in China’s Inner Mongolia region, in In Inner Mongolia, a Fight to Keep Language and Identity From Being ‘Wiped Out’
- How a long history of internationalist struggle is helping the Black Lives Matter protests to go global, in As BLM Goes Global, It’s Building on Centuries of Black Internationalist Struggle
- Examine all of WPR’s coverage of conditions for religious minorities.
Despite the gradual introduction of protections for members of the LGBT community in some countries, they remain under threat in much of the world. Meanwhile, the rise of populist movements in Europe and elsewhere has called into question previous gains made by LGBT activists.
- How local governments across Europe have pushed back against Poland’s assault on LGBT rights, in Rising Anti-LGBTQ Sentiment Is Isolating Poland’s Small Towns
- Why there is sadly nothing new about Uganda’s crackdown on its LGBT community, in Uganda’s Escalating LGBT Crackdown Feels Eerily Familiar
- Why Bosnia’s first Pride parade was an important first step for LGBT rights, in Can Bosnia’s LGBT Activists Build on the Momentum of Their First Pride Parade?
- Examine all of WPR’s coverage of LGBT rights.
Women’s Rights and Gender Equality
While women’s rights have made great strides worldwide in terms of legal protections, in practice women continue to face challenges ranging from violence and wage discrimination to unfair family law and social customs. Despite some recent victories, gender equality around the world remains far from reality.
- How a key plank of former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s agenda came up short, in Why Japan’s Push for Gender Equality Is Failing
- Why bans on female genital mutilation are insufficient to end the practice, in Why Sudan’s Ban on Female Genital Mutilation Isn’t Enough to Protect Its Girls
- Why including women in task forces directing coronavirus pandemic responses improves outcomes, in The Importance of Gender Inclusion in COVID-19 Responses
- Examine all of WPR’s coverage of women’s rights and gender equality.
While indigenous communities are under assault around the world, disputes over resource extraction have emerged as a critical fault line, particularly in Latin America. Elsewhere, political and economic marginalization continue to pose difficult challenges.
- Why the coronavirus pandemic is such a serious threat to South America’s indigenous communities, in How COVID-19 Threatens the ‘Very Survival’ of Indigenous South Americans
- Why indigenous women in Canada are protesting a major gas pipeline project, in In Canada, Infrastructure Projects Are Endangering Indigenous Women and Children
- What more needs to be done to safeguard the survival of the world’s indigenous languages, in Indigenous Languages Are in Danger of Going Extinct Around the World
- Examine all of WPR’s coverage of indigenous rights.