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The Sovereignty of Human Rights advances a legal theory of international human rights that defines their nature and purpose in relation to the structure and operation of international law. Professor Macklem argues that the mission of international human rights law is to mitigate adverse consequences produced by the international legal deployment of sovereignty to structure global politics into an international legal order.
The book contrasts this legal conception of international human rights with moral conceptions that conceive of human rights as instruments that protect universal features of what it means to be a human being. The book also takes issue with political conceptions of international human rights that focus on the function or role that human rights plays in global political discourse.
It demonstrates that human rights traditionally thought to lie at the margins of international human rights law - minority rights, indigenous rights, the right of self-determination, social rights, labor rights, and the right to development - are central to the normative architecture of the field.