Document Type


Publication Title

Columbia Human Rights Law Review



Publication Date



Human rights, Human Rights Institute, Columbia, Columbia Law School, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Louis Henkin, Henkin, Center for the Study of Human Rights


This year marks the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Human Rights Institute (HRI) at Columbia Law School. Appropriately, it also marks the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the foundational instrument of the modern international human rights regime. When HRI was founded in 1998, it was established as a crossroads for human rights at Columbia, which would bridge theory and practice, human rights and constitutional rights, and law and other disciplines. From its inception, HRI has been a partner with the university-wide Center for the Study of Human Rights, which was established twenty years earlier as an interdisciplinary program to bring human rights scholarship into many academic fields. The Law School-based Institute was the brainchild of Professor Louis Henkin, who, as a founder of the university-wide program, recognized the need to train a new generation of human rights advocates, scholars, and teachers through scholarship regarding the law of human rights. This special volume celebrates one of HRI's signature programs: "Human Rights in the United States." While the United States played a leading role in the creation and development of modern international organizations and human rights law regimes, and there has been a bi-partisan commitment to advancing human rights in U.S. foreign policy for many decades, it has been less consistent in promoting international standards guaranteeing human rights as part of U.S. domestic law and policy. The Human Rights Institute was a path-breaker in recognizing that human rights do not involve merely scholarship and activism regarding what happens "out there," but that human rights are implicated in domestic U.S. policies as well. This goal of affirming human rights at home was part of Henkin's holistic vision of human rights as protected through a fluid regime of national, sub-national, and international instruments. To Henkin, constitutions have been every bit as important as treaties. Human rights around the globe are typically protected through domestic law, and the U.S. Constitution and U.S. domestic statutes are no different. Indeed, the U.S. Constitution has a particularly intimate relationship to the international human rights movement, since U.S. constitutionalism featured centrally in the creation of the modern conception of human rights.