Hardening Soft Law in Transnational Regulatory Settings: National Human Rights Institutions and the International Human Rights System

Thursday, 2 July 2015: 4:00 PM-5:30 PM
TW2.3.04 (Tower Two)
Thomas Pegram, University College London, London, United Kingdom
Human rights treaties articulate ambitious international standards, but in many parts of the world, domestic practices lag far behind.  This persistent compliance gap has fuelled a search for innovative governance solutions to regulating domestic state behaviour.  To bridge this compliance gap, the United Nations adopted a non-binding resolution: The 1993 Paris Principles, recommending that all countries adopt National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and endow them with specific safeguards and powers to enhance their performance.  The resolution triggered a norm cascade on a global scale, from 21 NHRIs before 1993 to almost 120 NHRIs in 2015.  International relations scholarship has examined the exogenous drivers of NHRI adoption by states.  However, research has not yet explained why the Paris Principles have become so influential? Given the problem structure posed by the human rights regulatory domain, the adoption of supranational rules restricting state discretion in itself presents an empirical puzzle.  The impact of a non-binding instrument in the absence of ex ante state agreement over their content, as well as a self-organised NHRI peer monitoring system, further compounds the puzzle.  This article adopts a purposive institutional framework which incorporates a constructivist preoccupation with the rule-entrepreneurial activities of NHRI practitioners.  These transgovernmental actors have engaged in a two-level game of authority construction under conditions of dual delegation to advance their own policy goals.