Why do activists employ international human rights law in domestic policy struggles, and to what effect?
In an article published with Law & Social Inquiry, Beck explores this question in the context of socio-economic rights, which have historically lagged behind their civil and political counterparts. He argues that student activists were not naive about the potential offered by human rights, as they expected neither neat court victories nor widespread public acceptance of their human rights claim.
Instead, activists invoked human rights to resist political elites’ framing of education as a private good and students as consumers. They argued that tuition fees would violate the human rights of current students, and would exacerbate human rights violations for those whom Germany has historically excluded from higher education. Human rights claims, in turn, helped activists to broaden their demands and their coalition to include demands for social justice and inclusion in German education more generally. The mobilization of human rights law also was an effective means by which activists generated media attention and pressured politicians.