Response to discussion

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Each response is 250 words each

Response 1:

For me, this weeks’ readings were more difficult than last weeks.  Human right is such a powerful subject because, in my view, it’s a big “What’s in it for me”?  “There was outrage about the Holocaust, but the fact is that genocide and crimes against humanity were integral to European colonization of the 18th through 20th centuries” (Benjamin 2009).  I keep circling back to this point as Western Democracies hold themselves in such esteem, a vast majority of issues were self-created through colonization.  Only four of the worlds’ countries were not colonized by Europe; Japan, Korea, Thailand, Liberia (Fisher 2015).  I believe that legacy of living under forced rule creates a deep, systemic culture of potential abuse.  The 2020 Human Rights Watch world reports identifies human rights violations or notable situations in120 nations or 61 percent of all countries (Human Rights Watch 2020).  As complete as that sounds, it further reports more situation under investigation (ibid).  It includes the United States for its criminal legal system (death penalty, racial disparity of incarcerated), juveniles in the court system, racial justice and policing and on and on. Going back further in our history, our genocide against the Native American population and the linkage between Nazi Germany patterning its Nuremburg Laws after our Jim Crow laws (Rose 2018) should give us pause for thought on why this is so important and how committed we should be to the cause.  How did the United States escape shame and punishment for its own apartheid with Jim Crow when South Africa did not?  So, we ask how we determine if human rights IOs are effective?  Big issues like genocide, famine, displacement, refugees, make headlines, create some international action but then fade into the former news cycle.  Human Rights Watch (HRW) provides an annual report on global issues.  But how many people know what HRW is?  This comes across as rather jaded and I suppose it is a realist point of view as only the strongest survive and nations only act when they can get something in return.  Agreeing to human rights treaties offers nothing in return aside from the satisfaction of standing up for other humans.    

Hathaway (2007) considers important factors of why states agree to human rights treaties.  I find it obvious that less than democratic countries with poor human rights records buck these types of treaties because they have no foundational respect for human rights.  The observation, “formal international legal enforcement of the treaties is minimal to nonexistent” Merry (2006), reminds me of Robin Williams describing how the police in the UK stop a crime by saying, “Stop, or I’ll say stop again!” (Williams 1986).  It goes back to my original question of what is in it for me?  Is naming and shaming the best route (Meernik, et al. 2012)?  Is it the boomerang theory?  IOs have made strides in broadening our understanding of human rights but we have such a long way to go.

Merry (2006) has in interesting point of view with, “Remaking human rights in the vernacular is difficult.  Local communities often conceive of social justice in quite different terms from the human rights advocates”.  For example, honor violence and killing still permeate the global, though mostly an issue is Asia (UNODC 2018, 31), as does violence against women (UNODC 2018, 32, Hampshire, IOW, Southampton and Portsmouth Safeguarding Adults Boards 2013).  “Campaigns are processes of issue construction constrained by the action context in which they are to be carried out: activists identify a problem, specify a cause, and propose a solution, all with an eye to­ward producing procedural, substantive, and normative change in their area of concern” (Keck and Sikkink 1998).  This is a great starting point but when taken in conjunction with Merry’s point about changing the hearts and minds at the grassroots level, it creates a truer scope of the world NGO’s, activists, and those involved in transnational advocacy operate within.  Realism being the predominant political school of thought elevates the importance of NGO’s and transnational advocacy networks in human rights.  We need those who are committed to something as basic as human life to selflessly lead the way where political systems either cannot or will not.

Response 2:

This week’s lesson covered the humanitarian oriented intergovernmental organization, often referred to as nongovernmental organizations because they are frequently made up of private citizens and not associated with any one government.  Transnational advocacy networks are basically the same, a grassroots organization formed around advocating for positive change in a charitable cause, usually humanitarian, climate, or animal protection.  Our lesson examined specifically human rights nongovernmental organizations, and how they can be successful convincing governments to act against their own interests and make altruistic sacrifices.  Nongovernmental organizations control the narrative of an issue, and in turn control perception of it.  By doing so they bring that issue to the forefront of media, public consciousness, and political policy.  They make the public see the importance of their issue, and the governments see the costs of the issue.  (Rutherford, 2000)  This is the general way in which the nongovernmental organizations convince governments to adopt human rights treaties. 

              Determining whether or not human rights international organizations are successful is generally tied to whether or not their efforts result in a treaty or change in policy.  It is also dependent on the scope of the issue.  A nongovernmental organization may successfully change policy in one country, or get a group of countries to sign a treaty, but if the issue they are fighting is global, then they cannot yet be called successful.  Similarly, if a state signs a human rights treaty but then fails to enforce it, the nongovernmental organization cannot be called successful.  Hathaway pointed out that “states with less democratic institutions will be no less likely to commit to human rights treaties if they have poor human rights records, because there is little prospect that the treaties will be enforced. Conversely, states with more democratic institutions will be less likely to commit to human rights treaties if they have poor human rights records precisely because treaties are likely to lead to changes in behavior.” (2007, 1)   This is why simply achieving a treaty is not a measure of success.  What is then?  Nothing short of fully achieving their purpose, such that the organizations needs to find a new issue to support, or disband.  An example of this is the transatlantic slave trade.  Transnational advocacy groups, started in England but which existed in America as well, worked for decades to end the transatlantic slave trade, for purely moral reasons.  They achieved a degree of success in the late 1700’s by ending slavery in England, and eventually ending the transatlantic slave trade, but slavery in various forms continued for many decades after that, and so they were not truly successful until the end of the American Civil War, when slavery finally ended in all Western societies. (Kaufman and Pape, 1999)

              We already established that human rights treaties have limited effectiveness, because the state can choose not to enforce them or may pull out of the treaty at a later date. Nongovernmental organizations are usually formal organizations, and this have access to far greater resources and funding than transnational advocacy groups.  Their goal, however, is usually a treaty or policy change, which we just established have limited effectiveness.  But transnational advocacy groups “reach beyond policy change to advocate and instigate changes in the institutional and principled basis of international interactions.” (Keck and Sikkink, 1998, 1)  Transnational advocacy networks are then able to work towards important but less popular issues that might not warrant the resources of nongovernmental organizations.  But advocacy networks are very limited in what they can achieve without the help of the nongovernmental organizations, which is why I find those to be the most effective type of issues-based international organization.  Nongovernmental organizations can leverage the networks of TANs, the resources of a major political power, and their own narrative leverage.

Response 3:

  1. How do we determine whether human rights IOs are effective? 

During previous lectures, we explored the different viewpoints regarding the effectiveness of IOs. At the very least, if an organization is to deem itself effective, it must achieve its operational goals. IO’s are also expected to be accountable for their actions.  Grant & Keohane, reports the following: “IGO members argue that NGOs tend not to be held accountable to any government, and can potentially take actions that would be impossible for IGOs, since they are scrutinized by the states that finance and legitimize their existence” (Grant and Keohane 2005). In light of this, IO’s have been accused of worsening the conditions of states, as it pertains to human rights.  Research, shows that human rights abuse worsens while under the care of most IO’s. 

Either way, Realist voted against its effectiveness, while Constructivism and Liberals suggests otherwise. Continued reflection on each of these theories, reminds us that; “socialization can bring about the convergence of interests of states within an IGO. Constructivism is apparent in the idea that, IGO’s provide venues in which policy makers from different countries regularly come together to discuss common problems…”(Greenhill 2010, 129). How fast, or slow, states are introduced to social norms and, learn to interact with one another can account for some degree of effectiveness. And for better or worse, “socialization” and “interest emergence” has been the measuring rod, in determine whether or not a particular IO, was able to change a state’s behavior over time. 

CONTINUED: How do we determine whether human rights IOs are effective? 

However, in this case, IOs/IGO’s rely on treaties to determine, whether human rights IOs are effective. IO’s boast of more than 50,000 international treaties in effect worldwide. (Hathaway 2007). However, these treaties aren’t always effective because they fail to protect a state’s sovereignty and human rights. Contrary to its purpose, most treaties limit a state’s freedom, and even dictate how they interact with their own citizens. According to Hathaway, “studies of compliance with human rights treaties support the claim that human rights treaties are most likely to be effective where there is domestic legal enforcement of treaty commitments” (Hathaway 2007, 7). Unfortunately, this does not remove human rights abuses, instead it simply reduces the risks or intent of continued torture. One report suggests that, “fully democratic states that ratify the CAT have lower rates of torture than if they have not ratified. Nondemocratic states that ratify, however, have higher rates of torture” (Hathaway 2007, 7). Again, this ties into the idea of convergent interest and social norms. Evidence suggests, treaties are rendered effective when it is able to influence a state’s behavior, without “legal enforcement” (7). There is a downside to this legal instrument. The more proficient, the treaty, the more costly. 

  1. Which types are most effective: human rights treaties, NGOs, or transnational advocacy networks?

This week’s studies, delves deeper into the debate regarding “international law and the emergence of international organizations” (Brian Greenhill 2020). While most IO’s leave a bitter taste in the mouth, there are some IO’s that should receive a standing ovation, when it comes to efficiency. Historically, Advocacy Networks, have excelled in the area of, “human rights, environment, labor, indigenous, anti-slavery and woman rights” (Keck and Sikkink 1998, 2). Unlike their counterparts, Advocacy Networks aren’t usually motivated by financial greed or social norms. Instead, transnational actors’ share the same core value. That is that we as “individuals can make a difference” (Keck and Sikkink 1998, 2). These transnational actors, are effective because they are able to transcend, “beyond policy change to advocate, and instigate changes in the institutional, and principled basis of international interactions. Their success become, an important part of an explanation for changes in world politics” (Keck and Sikkink 1998). Most important, Advocacy groups use extraordinary campaigns, and policies, to influence a state’s behavior. Although, they differs from the above mentioned HR Treaties, they still have the power to stimulate change. Finally, Advocacy Networks; impact states through, framing issues and fitting into international venues. 

NGOs on the other hand, as non-governmental entities also seek to protect the most vulnerable in our society.  Prior to reading about transnational Advocacy Networks, I have always considered NGOs to be the most effective. Especially since, “NGOs are a vital link between civil society and government within the state, and between the dispossessed and the inter-governmental community at the trans-national level” (Benjamin 2009).  However, like IGOs, NGOs are severely challenged. While NGOs definitely outshine most controversial IGOs, they are still not as effective as Advocacy networks. Primarily because, NGOs and IGOs, receive financing from governmental entities. In furtherance, these IOs “are challenged by governments that lack legitimacy (hence civil war and ethnic conflict), and warlords alike, on the basis of territorial inviolability and their very vulnerability to attack because they are not armed, not protected by international law, and are viewed as interlopers who are getting in the way of the work of the warlords" (Benjamin 2005). Without a doubt, this leads to a question of integrity.

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