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Richard Thompson Ford offers a lesson on how to reconcile lofty human rights ambitions with political and cultural realities. His analysis of human rights struggles across the globe uncovers the complexities of observing "universal" principles in specific cultures. Ford sketches divergent views on how we define rights, then offers his critique: on the ground, rights depend on a network of institutions and an underlying civic culture for enforcement, as even well-meaning reforms can lead to increased exploitation of the people they would protect. Ford explores five cases - from distributing food to the poor in India to sex-trafficking in Japan - and drives home a provocative conclusion. We must engage locally - in laws, institutions and social relationships - to realise meaningful change. And those who would "speak truth to power" must acknowledge the potential costs of reform.