Editor's note

Today two events put human rights centre stage. The first is that the world will mark the day on which the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 1948. This was the first global articulation of human rights and one of the first major achievements of the new UN. The second event is the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Peace.

So how well have countries fared since the declaration was adopted? Henning Melber examines human rights advances and failures over the last 70 years. For her part Angela Muvumba Sellström sets out the significance - particularly for campaigns against the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war - of Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad jointly being awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.

Caroline Southey


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International outrage led to Aung San Suu Kyi falling from grace after Myanmar unleashed violence against the Rohingya. EPA-EFE/Hein Htet

Human rights 70 years on: important victories as well as major misses

Henning Melber, University of Pretoria

Human Rights Day might not be a reason for celebrations. But it's a useful reminder of what's been achieved over 70 years.

Joint winners of the Nobel Peace Prize: Nadia Murad (left) with Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege. EPA-EFE/Stephanie Lecocq

Sexual violence as a weapon of war: why the Nobel Prize for Peace matters

Angela Muvumba Sellström, Fondation Maison des Sciences de l'Homme (FMSH) – USPC

The awarding of the Nobel Prize for Peace to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad should strengthen efforts against the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.

Science + Technology

3 ways Facebook and other social media companies could clean up their acts – if they wanted to

Anthony M. Nadler, Ursinus College; Matthew Crain, Miami University

Without much delay, Facebook and Twitter could make significant changes to limit political manipulation and propaganda. Will they? And will users ask it of the social media giants?

Opening Pandora’s Box: Gene editing and its consequences

John Bergeron, McGill University

Gene editing through CRISPR may have greater consequences than climate change or unleashing the energy of the atom.

Politics + Society

How new media platforms have become powerful across Africa

George Ogola, University of Central Lancashire

New media platforms have changed the way people create, consume and relate the news.

Global Compact for Migration: what is it and why are countries opposing it?

Marcia Vera Espinoza, Queen Mary University of London; Leila Hadj-Abdou, European University Institute; Leiza Brumat, European University Institute

The number of countries withdrawing seems to be growing by the day.

Energy + Environment

How we used drones to monitor coastal erosion in Ghana

Kwasi Addo Appeaning, University of Ghana

Drones are low cost and easy to operate. They give quality, high resolution outputs, and can be deployed fast and often.

Nigeria’s depleting fish stocks may pose a threat to regional security

Ifesinachi Okafor-Yarwood, King's College London

Climate change, pollution and illegal fishing by foreign boats is threatening the livelihoods of millions of people.

Health + Medicine

Stop blaming PrEP for the rise in STIs – the picture is more complex than that

Oli Stevens, Imperial College London; T Charles Witzel, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Blaming the rapid increases in syphilis cases on PrEP is an oversimplification of a complex problem.

More people are experiencing severe food allergies than ever before

Matthew Smith, University of Strathclyde

A worrying lack of open-minded research means we do not know exactly why food allergy is on the rise.