Deliberating About Human Rights

The Centre will address one particular aspect of the debate around human rights reform: the relationship between deliberation or dialogue and human rights reform. The lack of popular and media support for the Human Rights Act suggests the need to develop a culture of rights in civil society and popular will-formation and to avoid the appearance of a elite project that excludes the general public from a role in debating and agreeing human rights norms (although given the residual role of the European Convention on Human Rights, democratic debate on the scope and content of human rights norms is already constrained).

The importance of deliberation further suggests a political concept of justice that is inconsistent with universal ideas around human rights and a limited role for domestic and international courts, with the focus for developing detailed human rights norms returning to Parliament (raising the perennial question of a ‘tyranny of the democratic majority’). Increasingly, proponents of a deliberative or dialogical model of constitutional rights point to the importance of the relationship between institutions, with judicial review simply another step in the establishment of justice norms in conditions of uncertainty and disagreement.

The research programme will address a number of specific themes concerned with the role of institutions in the reform of human rights; the debate around economic, social and cultural rights; the difficulty in deliberating about human rights in conditions of terror and emergency; and the need to address the complex questions of duties and responsibilities as they relate to reform of the Human Rights Act.