I had an enjoyable time at this year’s International Studies Association Annual Conference. As an added bonus, the meeting was hosted in New Orleans this year. I chaired an excellent panel on Global Governance in the Interregnum which showcased the recent Special Forum published in Millennium co-edited by myself and Michele Acuto. Special mention to the fantastic comments provided by our discussant, Rorden Wilkinson. I also participated in a panel on ‘International Diffusion Meets Domestic Politics’ with some great colleagues. This was an opportunity to present the first draft of a new paper I have written with Katerina Linos at Berkeley Law School titled: ‘Interrogating Form and Function: Designing Effective National Human Rights Institutions’. The abstract follows and the paper is available upon request:
National human rights institutions (NHRIs) constitute one of the most prolific institutional developments of recent years. Their codification in the Paris Principles and subsequent endorsement by the UN General Assembly in 1993 has precipitated a norm cascade on a global scale. The Paris Principles constitute a concrete – if imperfect – template for NHRI design, with guidelines governing the independence, jurisdiction, mandate and composition. This international standard has had the positive effect of introducing and even strengthening NHRIs. The challenge now confronting local advocates of these new structures is to ensure that they are actually enabled to improve human rights practices. Relatively little is known about those factors that underlie NHRI effectiveness. A principal objective of this paper is to address this empirical deficit. This research examines the key question: what institutional features make NHRIs effective? It departs from the conventional assumption that formal design matters and speaks directly to the issue of how to design an NHRI that works as intended. In turn, is it possible to promote a formal model which has universal application? To generate some empirical pathways into answering these questions we draw on expert survey data, case study analysis, and extensive human subject work with key stakeholders.