‘Framing the project’ of international human rights law: Reflections on the dysfunctional ‘family’ of the Universal Declaration
Grear, A. (2012). ‘Framing the project’ of international human rights law: Reflections on the dysfunctional ‘family’ of the Universal Declaration. In C. Gearty & C. Douzinas (Eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Human Rights Law (pp.17-35). Cambridge University Press.
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/7684
The task of ‘framing the project’ of international human rights law is daunting to say the least. First, there is the sheer enormity and complexity of the international human rights law ‘project’: adequately mapping the subject and its key related issues is impossible in a whole book, let alone a short chapter. Secondly, it is daunting because of the sense of epistemic responsibility involved. Every framing inevitably involves selection – if not pre-selection – through the conscious (and/or unconscious) placing of focus upon features or factors considered to be significant and/or valuable. As Gitlin puts it, framing is a way of choosing, underlining and presenting ‘what exists, what happens and what matters’. In this sense, the founding document (or as Entman might put it, the inaugural ‘communicating text’) of international human rights law (the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UDHR) functions as a particularly potent form of framing, for it selects aspects of perceived reality, making them not just salient but symbolically central to the entire philosophical, moral, juridical order designated by the term ‘international human rights law’.
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