Human rights/Tutorials

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Tutorials relating to the topic of Human rights.

Studies of the impact of the human rights treaties

The impact of the treaties has been characterised by long delays between commitment and implementation. According to the authors of a 1999 study of the impact of the United Nations treaties, they have had an enormous influence upon the understanding of the concept of human rights, as a result of which their influence is likely to increase[1]. Thomas Risse sees the improvement of human rights as a five-stage process, starting from (i) "unconstrained repression", followed by (ii) denial, eg as an unwarranted intrusion into national sovereignty, (iii) "tactical concessions" such as the release of some political prisoners, (iv) "prescriptive status" involving lip service to human rights principles, and finally (v) "rule-consistent behaviour" involving their active implementation [2]. Whether, and if so how fast, the process takes place is thought to depend upon the effectiveness of pressure from other governments, the human rights network (Amnesty etc) and domestic public opinion. Limited support for that thesis comes from transnational comparisons of human rights records. Linda Keith found that countries that ratified the civil rights treaty often had better human rights records than those that do not [3]. Oona Hathaway also found that ratifying countries had better records than non-ratifying countries, but that ratification is sometimes associated with worse performance [4]. Emilie Hafner-Burton and Kiyatero Tsutsui found that there were better human rights records in democracies, developed countries and countries whose citizens take part in civil rights movements. [5]. Eric Neumayer found that ratification improved performance depending upon the extent of democracy and the strength of civil society [6].


  1. Christof Heyns and Frans. Viljoen: The Impact of the United Nations Human Rights Treaties on the Domestic Level, Kluwer Law International, 2003] (Google books extract [1])
  2. Thomas Risse: The Socialization of International Norms into Domestic Practices: Arguing and Strategic Adaptation in the Human Rights Area, (Paper presented at the Ideas, Culture and Political Analysis Workshop, Princeton University, May 15-16 1998 [2])
  3. Linda Keith: The United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Does it Make A Difference to Human Rights Behavior?, Journal of Peace Research, 1999
  4. Oona A. Hathaway: Do Human Rights Treaties Make a Difference?, Yale Law Journal 2002
  5. Emilie Hafner-Burton and Kiyatero Tsutsui: Human Rights in a Globalizing World. The Paradox of Empty Promises, American Journal of Sociology, 2005
  6. Eric Neumayer; Do International Human Rights Treaties Improve Respect for Human Rights, LSE Research Online, 2006