Human rights norms revolve around the sacredness of the individual. They have a long history, stretching back long before the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948.

Over the course of the last two decades in particular, human rights norms have increasingly come to define a framework for political debates about development, conflict, environmental issues, trade, humanitarian relief, and more. This development has gone hand in hand with an increased inclusion of human rights norms in national legislation.

Research on human rights includes:
• The spread of human rights and their variable implementation within different states
• More legally oriented studies explore the legal status of human rights norms compared to other legal norms
• A more novel, and critical, strand of analysis focus on how human rights discourses facilitate some types of political claims while foreclosing others, and on how some actors become empowered to speak on behalf of larger groups