Beth Simmons - Politics
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Beth Simmons

The history of humanity’s struggle to establish human dignity.

A world-class scholar who studies human rights through the lens of international politics
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The International Human Rights Odyssey

GREAT MINDS’ “The International Human Rights Odyssey” looks back on the history of human rights and how the fight for human dignity overcame an unequal and oppressive system.

In her first lecture, “Creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” we go back in time to the period when the concept of human rights first emerged. We look at how the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was created during these harsh times to establish universal human dignity and the efforts of those who made it possible. The second lecture, “The History of Human Rights Development,” explores how the Universal Declaration of Human Rights came to be enforced in countries and how its provisions became legally binding. In the third and fourth lecture, parts one and two of “How Human Rights Spread,” we look at different methods of demanding human rights from governments which prioritized the interest of the state and sovereignty instead. From coercion through trade pressure to socialization and the intervention of organizations both home and abroad, we look at the different ways to get states to meet their human rights obligations. In Simmons' fifth lecture, “The State and the Human Rights Backlash,” we look at cases of backlash from states as human rights spread. We learn how states acted against human rights on occasions when human rights and the state interest were in conflict. The final lecture, “Technology and the Future of Human Rights,” looks at how various crises threatening humanity are affecting the human rights situations around the world. Professor Simmons encourages us all to figure out how we can stop the rights we have been protecting from regressing.

Full Bio

Beth Simmons

Professor of law and political science at the University of Pennsylvania
Author of Mobilizing for Human Rights: International Law in Domestic Politics
Winner of the Woodrow Wilson Award from the American Political Science Association (2004, 2009)
Elected as a member of the American Philosophical Society and the National Academy of Sciences, among others

Beth Simmons is a professor of political science and law at the University of Pennsylvania. Simmons, who teaches international relations, international law, and international political economy, gained attention in academia with her research on international political economy during the interwar years and international law’s influence on human rights outcomes around the world.

Her 2009 book, Mobilizing for Human Rights: International Law in Domestic Politics, was awarded the Woodrow Wilson Prize, given to the best book of the year by the American Political Science Association, and chosen as the book of the year by the International Social Science Council and the International Studies Association in 2010.

Professor Simmons is still active in the field, currently researching informal governance mechanisms in international affairs and international border issues. Her recent and current research has been supported by the Carnegie Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Smith Richardson Foundation.

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