Improving Human Rights: A Conversation with Emilie Hafner-Burton

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Open Agenda Publishing, Oct 1, 2020 - Political Science

This book is based on an in-depth, filmed conversation between Howard Burton and Emilie Hafner-Burton, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of International Justice and Human Rights at UC San Diego and co-director of the Laboratory on International Law and Regulation at the School. This extensive conversation covers topics such international law, when and why international laws work and don’t work, the international human rights system and concrete measures that could be taken to improve it, the International Criminal Court, and the role of states in the protection of human rights.

This carefully-edited book includes an introduction, Making a Difference, and questions for discussion at the end of each chapter:

I. Forging a Path - An unconventional route to the UN

II. Shifting Perspectives - Considering the data

III. Who Decides? - The perils of implementation

IV. Going Public - Towards an open exchange

V. Fundamental Questions - Incentives and justifications

VI. The International Criminal Court - Past present and future

VII. Norm Saturation - Beyond rules and procedures

VIII. Reform - Marginal and non-marginal changes

IX. Getting Concrete - Towards meaningful progress

X. Stewardship - How states can have a positive impact

XI. Reactions and Responses - Examining opposing views

XII. Public Engagement - Media bias and joint opportunities

About Ideas Roadshow Conversations Series: 

This book is part of an expanding series of 100+ Ideas Roadshow conversations, each one presenting a wealth of candid insights from a leading expert in a relaxed and informal setting to give non-specialists a uniquely accessible window into frontline research and scholarship that wouldn't otherwise be encountered through standard lectures and textbooks. For other books in this series visit our website (


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A Note on the Text
The Conversation
Forging a Path
Shifting Perspectives
Who Decides?
Going Public
Fundamental Questions
The International Criminal Court
Norm Saturation
Getting Concrete
Reactions and Responses
Public Engagement

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About the author (2020)

Howard Burton, the founder and creator of Ideas Roadshow and Ideas on Film, holds a PhD in theoretical physics and an MA in philosophy. He was the Founding Executive Director of Canada’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (PI) from 1999-2007. During his time at PI, he also developed an extensive outreach programme for teachers, students and the general public. His experiences at developing the research and outreach mandates of the institute were described in the book, First Principles: Building Perimeter Institute, featuring a foreword by Nobel Laureate Roger Penrose.

Ideas Roadshow is an award-winning initiative, recipient of the London Book Fair International Excellence Award in 2018. Howard has hosted and filmed in-depth conversations with more than 100 of the world’s brightest thinkers, including 3 Nobel Laureates, across the arts, sciences, sports and games. 

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