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American Human Rights Diplomacy: The Next Phase, 28 Virginia Journal of International Law (1988)

Abstract

There is no dearth of serious human rights issues. High on my short list would be the resolution of the Palestinian problem, the dismantling of apartheid and its replacement by a liberal democratic multi-racial society in South Africa, and the encouragement of the incipient process of democratization and liberalization in the social ist states.

Unfortunately, the opportunity to do something positive and meaningful about such issues may not present itself in the life of the coming administration. The big-ticket human rights issues are by their nature complex social problems that are integrated in even more complex regional and international contexts. Their solubility often depends on what the French calI instant propice, that constellation of factors without which the best of intentions and the greatest of efforts will fail. You may try to induce these constellations to form, but they just may not congeal during your term of office. \Vhatever can be done should be done to alleviate the big problems, but none of us should entertain illusions that all problems can be solved simply by targeting and then throwing resources at them. Indeed, that could be counterproductive. Given the limited resources available for human rights, choosing the wrong targets at the wrong time may simply expend the limited pool of money and potential indignation that might have been effective elsewhere.

Date of Authorship for this Version

1988

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