Human rights institutions: Rhetoric and efficacy

Emilie M. Hafner-Burton, James Ron

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    23 Scopus citations


    International human rights language has swept across the landscape of contemporary world politics in a trend that began in the 1970s, picked up speed after the Cold War's end, and quickened yet again in the latter half of the 1990s. Yet, while this human rights 'talk' has fundamentally reshaped the way in which global policy elites, transnational activists, and some national leaders talk about politics and justice, actual impacts are more difficult to discern, requiring more nuance and disaggregation. Importantly, there may be substantial cross-regional variations, due to varying colonial and post-colonial histories, and different trajectories in statesociety relations. In some instances, there are also important differences in tone between qualitative and quantitative researchers. While many case-study scholars tend to be rather optimistic about the potential for human rights change, statistically inclined researchers often lean towards greater caution and, in some cases, downright skepticism about the trans-formative potential of international human rights law and advocacy. Given that international human rights treaties, human rights reporting, democracy, and elections do not always influence state practice in expected ways, the authors call for more regionally disaggregated studies, coupled with greater efforts to combine qualitative and quantitative research techniques.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)379-383
    Number of pages5
    JournalJournal of Peace Research
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Jul 2007

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