Sikkink, Kathryn (2017) Evidence for Hope: Making Human Rights Work in the 21st Century. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 336 pp.

​ISBN: 978-0-691-17062-6

Rebecca Cordell

University of Texas at Dallas

Read more about this book: press.princeton.edu

​Many scholars, activists, policy makers and members of the public perceive human rights around the world to be in decline. Evidence for Hope challenges this misconception and presents persuasive empirical evidence on the positive change that human rights law, institutions and movements have produced over time. This book explains how 'comparisons to the ideal', cognitive biases, changing standards of accountability, and an increase in information on human rights violations have created the false impression that human rights are getting worse. Kathryn Sikkink argues that human rights progress should be evaluated via comparisons to the past (not the ideal) and highlights the importance of acknowledging that 'the change human rights promotes comes slowly and only as a result of concerted struggles'. Evidence for Hope provides a comprehensive overview of the history of human rights (including the central role of actors and countries in the global south), how to measure and evaluate the legitimacy and effectiveness of human rights laws, institutions and activism, what causes variation in human rights violations and improvements over time, and how to successfully promote human rights in the future. The book concludes with specific policy recommendations for enhancing the protection of human rights including the need to reduce conflict, seek non-violent solutions, promote democracy, combat dehumanizing and exclusionary ideologies, encourage states to ratify and enforce human rights laws at the international and domestic level, end impunity, and strengthen transnational human rights networks. Kathryn Sikkink's analysis provides the reader with several reasons to be optimistic about the future of human rights while also offering academics and activists strategies for how to better measure, evaluate and promote human rights.