Therefore, Peoples of the World, we American Negroes appeal to you … No nation is so great that the world can afford to let it continue to be deliberately unjust, cruel and unfair toward its own citizens.
WEB Du Bois/NAACP, 1947

The world owes a duty to the Untouchables as it does to all suppressed people to break their shackles and to set them free.
BR Ambedkar, 1943

In this era of populism and ethno-religious tribalism, when battles for some of the most basic principles of rights and social equality must seemingly be re-fought daily, it may feel as though there is little time or energy left to consider issues of global justice, much less global institutional development. It also may appear that any dialogue on the global has been rendered moot in the current context, where for example far-right supporters of the US president deploy the term ‘globalist’ as a slur against advocates of even a moderate liberal internationalism.

Yet some of the most prominent historic champions of those most basic principles of equality and rights have looked beyond the state for support in promoting them within. In so doing, they have indicated an important global institutional imaginary—a multi-level set of political institutions capable of promoting individual rights protections domestically, and of giving those facing domestic repression some meaningful place to turn. Such an imaginary is well worth upholding as an alternative vision of political institutions and it can be of practical use in guiding some current political struggles.

BR Ambedkar and WEB Du Bois are both renowned as campaigners for domestic equality, and indeed as significant social and political thinkers in their own right. Both, in fact, were the first in their ascribed domestic race and caste categories to earn doctoral degrees—Du Bois from Harvard in 1895 and Ambedkar from Columbia in 1927. Ambedkar, best known as the tireless advocate for India’s Dalits (formerly ‘untouchables’), went on to serve as chief architect of the country’s post-independence 1950 Constitution, which established a range of individual rights protections.

Please click here to read the full “Ambedkar and Du Bois on pursuing rights protections globally” article published at 21st Century Global Dynamics, written by Griffith Asia Institute member, Associate Professor Luis Cabrera.