• Martha Minow


In her address to the U.S. Commission on Unalienable Rights, Martha Minow discusses the meaning and implications of human rights. 


"Please accept my thanks for the invitation to speak with you and for your service on this important effort. Grappling with the meaning and implications of human rights is a task that no one generation can complete; comprehension, validation, and commitment require investment of renewing thought and action even though human rights are described as self-evident and eternal. In fact, the reasons why individual nations and even individual people subscribe to notions of human rights vary enormously—and range from idealism to realpolitik—as do their justifications and rationales, which sound in such competing registers as religion, social contract, nature, utility, and game theory.  As I will explain, respect for the dignity of each person offers a core basis for human rights in both substance and in attitudes of respect and civility even when we disagree. Your admirable effort to trace ideas about human rights to deep histories and understandings of eternal truths should underscore the importance of engagement with other nations and multinational convenings as we all face unprecedented challenges to human dignity."


Martha Minow. 3/17/2020. “Remarks Before the Commission on Unalienable Rights.” Cambridge, MA: Harvard Kennedy School.