Human Rights and Global Democracy


  • Michael Goodhart

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    • I am grateful to participants in the Democracy Collaborative conference on Democracy and Globalization held at the University of Maryland in April 2006, and especially to Bob Keohane, for comments on an earlier version of this article. I also thank Simon Stacey, who offered comments on a revised draft presented at the 2006 APSA meeting. Lisa Alfredson, David Bearce, Charli Carpenter, Chuck Gochman, Nita Rudra, and Dan Thomas provided helpful suggestions for clarifying and improving the argument. I am also grateful to the editors of Ethics & International Affairs and to four insightful and constructive anonymous reviewers. Finally, I thank Andrew Lotz for his research assistance.


Human rights and global democracy are widely assumed to be compatible, but the conceptual and practical connection between them has received little attention. As a result, the relationship is under-theorized, and important potential conflicts between them have been neglected or overlooked. This essay attempts to fill this gap by addressing directly the conceptual relationship between human rights and global democracy. It argues that human rights are a necessary condition for global democracy. Human rights constrain power, enable meaningful political agency, and support and promote democratic regimes within states, all of which are fundamental elements in any scheme for global democracy. The essay explores the normative and conceptual bases of these functions and works out some of their institutional implications.