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May 24, 2016

In Episode 6 of The Rights Track, Todd asks James Ron, Professor of International Affairs at the University of Minnesota, about his work with David Crow at the Centro de Investigation y Docencia Economicas, CIDE comparing public attitudes to human rights in and across four different countries.

0.00-5.46 minutes

  • Todd sets the context including how in the UK attitudes have turned against human rights e.g. in the popular press and discussions around the Human Rights Act and whether or not the UK should get rid of it. How human rights are portrayed as protecting criminals and terrorists
  • Jim explains how human rights has absorbed political and social baggage and taken on different meanings for different people
  • Negative attitudes like those in the UK not apparent in other countries
  • How Jim’s research is going about measuring attitudes to human rights and the countries he’s looked at (India, Morocco, Nigeria and Mexico
  • Some human rights related background on each country and the reasons for selecting them
  • Jim talks about his stance as a “critic” of human rights and of human rights organisations and his surprise at his findings on how positively ordinary people view them

5.47-11.51 minutes

  • How Jim’s research defines ‘supportive’, what sorts of questions participants in the survey are asked and the scales used
  • Some top level findings on overall support for human rights
  • How the human rights community thinks the public ‘hates’ them for ‘protecting criminals and terrorists’ and how this sentiment is not supported by the data
  • How the results might be different in countries where the human rights community has been ‘named and shamed’ or attacked by Governments
  • Some discussion about trade offs between security and human rights - Jim explains how this will be for future surveys but this survey was just to gain some base line reactions from people
  • Explanation of findings around trust in international and local human rights organisations - it’s much higher than for politicians but lower than for religious institutions


  • More on the religious findings - challenging to decipher overall though Catholics most trusting of human rights organisations
  • Discussion around links between levels of religiosity (social and personal) and support for human rights
  • Most interesting findings from each country (inc. links with women’s rights, foreign v local funding, multi-national business i.e. oil exploitation, criminals and terrorists)
  • People did not, on the whole, associate human rights with the US’ geo-political agenda - contradicts some current thinking, particularly Stephen Hopgood in Endtimes for Human Rights
  • Why human rights groups need to engage with both Catholic and Muslim populations


  • Broader messages of the research i.e. gap between what scholars and the human rights community thinks and what ordinary people think
  • People think relatively positively about human rights
  • Human rights world too immersed in a debate with elites and not with ordinary people
  • Jim acknowledges that the work needs to go a lot further, be replicated and extended etc.
  • Some details of the forthcoming book, likely to be called Diffusing Rights: The Human Rights Word and its Messengers out in 2017 with OUP

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