National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs)

A striking feature of the last 20 years has been the proliferation of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs). Paradigmatic examples of such institutions include national human rights commissions and ombudsmen, particularly in new and developing democracies.  Mandated to protect and promote citizens’ human rights, NHRIs have been established in a wide range of legal and political systems.  The establishment of NHRIs in regions as diverse as the Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East forms part of a contemporary trend toward the diffusion of constitutional innovations across international boundaries and political regimes. International organizations as well as regional organizations, including the African Union, European Union, Organization of American States, and United Nations, have also played a pivotal role in supporting the creation of these state agencies as vehicles of collaboration with international and regional human rights bodies.

Advancing an NHRI research agenda

Despite their relevance to key processes of human rights protection and promotion at the international and domestic level, these institutions remain largely peripheral to mainstream debate and their contribution to human rights protection and promotion understudied.  In recent years, a growing body of work – spanning academia, policy and government sectors – has begun to enhance the profile of these institutions.  This webpage is intended to encourage this nascent research agenda by providing a focal point for inquiry and scholarship from across human rights law and social science disciplines. Key areas of inquiry include:

  • Diagnosing NHRIs strengths, limitations, and areas of potential learning within and across institutions operating in diverse settings
  • Appraising recent developments in NHRI interaction with international and regional human rights systems
  • Pointing toward steps that might be taken to improve evaluative tools that engage with the strengths and limitations of institutional design
  • The political ability of these institutions to coordinate and influence state compliance with human rights norms on the ground. Or in other words, their impact.

What is a National Human Rights Institution?  >>

National Human Rights Institutions: A Wikitool >>