The Institutions of Human Rights: Developments and Practices
Written from a global perspective, The Institutions of Human Rights examines international human rights institutions and procedures, as well as weighty issues such as the protection of refugee and labor laws. Closely examining international human rights organizations, including the International Labour Organization, the International Criminal Court, and the European Court of Human Rights, this text places a particular focus on how institutions function, arguing that to truly understand human rights affairs one must also understand the politics and motivations at the core of these institutions. Each chapter includes key learning objectives and take-away messages and concludes with discussion questions to promote critical thinking and engagement.
- World Rights
- Page Count: 328 pages
- Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.6in x 9.0in
"This is an ambitious yet accessible analysis of the institutions that comprise the international human rights system. The book’s breadth will appeal to students and other newcomers to the field, while the rich and nuanced chapters will provide new insights for scholars, practitioners, and activists alike."
Courtney Hillebrecht, Samuel Clark Waugh Professor of International Relations, Department of Political Science, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
"DiGiacomo and Kang have assembled an excellent group of scholars to explore human rights institutions at the international and regional level and consider the interplay between institutional development and issues of accountability and enforcement. This volume is highly recommended for students and scholars alike."
Steven D. Roper, Editor-in-Chief of Human Rights Review and Professor of Political Science, Florida Atlantic University
"The Institutions of Human Rights provides a thorough account of means for protecting human rights at the domestic, regional, and international levels. It is an essential text for anyone concerned with the enforcement of human rights protections, including human rights scholars, professors, advocates, practitioners, and members of civil society, and is ideal for adoption as a core reading in human rights programs. Beyond concerning itself with the present international human rights system, it offers a critical analysis of existing mechanisms, shedding light on the way forward for human rights protections globally."
Christina Szurlej, Director, Atlantic Human Rights Centre, Acting Director & Assistant Professor, Human Rights Department, St. Thomas University, Fredericton
Author InformationGordon DiGiacomo teaches political science at the University of Ottawa.
Susan L. Kang is an associate professor in the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at City University of New York.
Table of contents
List of Abbreviations
Gordon DiGiacomo and Susan Kang
1. The International Human Rights Regime: Commitment and Compliance
Linda Camp Keith
2. United Nations’ Human Rights Procedures
3. The UN Security Council and Human Rights
4. The International Criminal Court
5. A Global Human Rights Court?
6. Protecting Refugee Rights: International Refugee Law and the UNHCR
James C. Simeon
7. The International Labour Organization: Champion of Worker Rights or 90-Pound Weakling?
8. European Court of Human Rights: Towards a Holistic Approach to Human Rights
9. Typology and Appraisal of the African Human Rights System
10. The Inter-American Human Rights System
Cristiane Lucena Carneiro
11. Human Rights in Post-Transitional Contexts
12. Human Rights and Police Accountability
Susan Kang and Gordon DiGiacomo
Read An Excerpt
This book on human rights institutions is a supplement to a previous volume edited by Gordon DiGiacomo entitled Human Rights: Current Issues and Controversies. Its twenty-one chapters discuss a range of rights-related issues. The present edited collection focuses on human rights institutions, and, like the previous one, is targeted primarily at upper-level undergraduates in the social sciences, although Master’s level and law students should also find it useful. Both volumes emerged out of the need for books on human rights that contribute to human rights scholarship in a way that is accessible to the target groups.
In this introduction, we explain what we mean when we use the term international institutions, briefly discuss the impact of global human rights governance on state sovereignty, explain how we selected the chapter topics, and provide a brief overview of each chapter.
Defining International Institutions
For a long time, when scholars used the term international institutions, they were referring to formal organizations such as the World Bank or the UN Security Council. Over the years, the understanding of international institutions has changed considerably, to the point that, in 2002, Simmons and Martin were able to write that “most scholars have come to regard international institutions as sets of rules meant to govern international behavior.”
This book subscribes to the definition of institutions offered by the international relations scholar Robert Keohane. He defines institutions as “persistent and connected sets of rules (formal and informal) that prescribe behavioral roles, constrain activity, and shape expectations.” He says that an institution, in the international relations context, can take one of three forms:
• Formal intergovernmental or cross-national nongovernmental organizations—these are bureaucratic organizations “capable of monitoring activity and of reacting to it.” There are hundreds of intergovernmental organizations within and outside the UN, such as the International Labour Organization, the Asian Development Bank, and the International Criminal Court. There are also numerous cross-national nongovernmental organizations (a.k.a. transnational advocacy organizations) like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
• International regimes—these are “institutions with explicit rules, agreed upon by governments, that pertain to particular sets of issues in international relations.” As examples, Keohane cites the international monetary regime and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
• Conventions—these “are informal institutions, with implicit rules and understandings, that shape the expectations of actors.” Here, Keohane is clearly not using conventions in the sense of international treaties but rather as a synonym for norms. As norms, conventions refer to shared expectations of appropriate behavior. As an example of a convention, Keohane mentions reciprocity; that is, a state’s expectation of reciprocal treatment for the positive—and negative—actions that it may take in its dealings with another state.
Keohane stresses the importance in international relations of refraining “from limiting one’s frame of reference to formal organizations or regimes” (emphasis added). This applies also in the domestic realm: constitutions, collective bargaining, the electoral system, and the free market system are all considered institutions even though they are not formal organizations. Thus, in this book, we include international conventions—that is, international human rights treaties—among our institutions, since they conform to Keohane’s definition of institutions.
In his study of international institutions, John Duffield describes them as “relatively stable sets of related … norms and rules that pertain to the international system, the actors in the system (including states as well as nonstate entities), and their activities.” In this characterization, Duffield explicitly includes norms, defining them as “socially shared expectations, understandings, or standards of appropriate behavior for actors within a given identity.” Norms, Duffield writes, are “shared beliefs about the way things should be, or how things should be done.” As an example, he refers to the near-universal agreement that chemical weapons should never be used. Another example is the acceptance that slavery is impermissible. Yet another is the widespread abhorrence of ethnic cleansing, and a fourth is the universal acceptance of diplomatic immunity.
Norms, it has been observed, have a life cycle, ranging from norm emergence to norm internalization. Starting as the favored idea of a handful of individuals, a norm may get to the point where it is widely believed to be the appropriate thing to do. In this process, norms may or may not be codified in formal legal documents.
The prominent human rights scholar Jack Donnelly provides a useful elaboration of the meaning of the term international regime—which, as noted above, Keohane sees as a form of institution. Like Keohane and Stephen Krasner, Donnelly refers to regimes as “principles, norms, rules, and decision-making procedures governing an issue-area.” He identifies four main types of international regime; namely, those consisting of:
• authoritative international norms: binding international standards, generally accepted as such by states;
• international standards with self-selected national exemptions: generally binding rules that nonetheless permit individual states to “opt out” in part (e.g., states may choose not to ratify a treaty or choose to ratify with reservations);
• international guidelines: international standards that are not binding but are nonetheless widely commended by states. Guidelines may range from strong, explicit, detailed rules to vague statements of amorphous collective aspirations;
• national standards: the absence of substantive international norms.
The human rights conventions that are discussed in this book, and which we would consider institutions as per Keohane’s and Duffield’s definitions, would fall into Donnelly’s second category.
Subjects and Courses