Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Catalysts for Change

Catalysts for Change: How the U.N.'s Independent Experts Promote Human Rights

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 225
  • Book Info
    Catalysts for Change
    Book Description:

    Catalysts for Changeexamines the strengths and weaknesses of one of the United Nations' most important human rights mechanisms -the collection of independent experts known as special procedures -as they negotiate the rocky terrain where rights meet reality. These independent experts serve as the eyes and ears of the UN human rights system. Despite their prolific work as experts and advocates, however, there has been no empirical study of their impact at the national level -until now. This book provides concrete evidence of why the system works and ways it can be improved.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-2193-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-5)

    One of the great questions of international affairs is how to promote respect for universal principles of human rights in a world where sovereign states can be persuaded but rarely compelled to do the right thing. Over the decades following the atrocities of World War II, the international community constructed a house with a strong foundation of universal norms that place the individual’s right to human dignity at the center. To give meaning to this concept, states adopted treaties that defined the scope and content of a wide variety of political, civil, economic, social, and group rights. Having lived through...

  6. 1 Who Are the UN’s Independent Human Rights Experts?
    (pp. 6-17)

    The United Nations system of independent human rights experts is a unique and effective mechanism that allows independent, periodic, on-the-ground scrutiny of a country’s record of respect for human rights. Since the appointment by the Commission on Human Rights of an ad hoc working group to inquire into the situation of human rights in Southern Africa in 1967, this mechanism has grown to become one of the UN’s most important instruments for promotion of universal human rights norms at the national and international level. Under continuous attack by some member states for intruding on what they consider their internal affairs,...

  7. 2 Findings on Effectiveness: Country Visits and Communications
    (pp. 18-44)

    The UN’s independent experts on human rights have played a valuable and, in some cases, decisive role in drawing attention to chronic and emerging human rights issues and in catalyzing improvements in respect for human rights on the ground, including direct support to victims. At the same time, state cooperation with the special procedures has been highly uneven and generally disappointing, with some notable exceptions. Cooperation by states ranges from regular acceptance of country visits by multiple independent experts and high response rates to their communications to virtually no recognition or dialogue with the rapporteurs. This failure by member states...

  8. 3 Independence under the Blue Flag: Relationship with the United Nations
    (pp. 45-69)

    The blue flag of the United Nations, like the blue-helmeted peacekeeping forces of Nobel Peace Prize fame, is a symbol of global concern recognized around the world. For the independent experts of the Human Rights Council (HRC), the UN’s blue flag represents the world body’s collective voice, lending political legitimacy to its mission of translating universal rights to local realities. Their credibility depends, to a great extent, on the credibility of the United Nations as a whole and its reputation as the premier global body dedicated to developing and upholding universal norms, fostering international cooperation, and delivering global public goods....

  9. 4 Style Matters: The Quality of Special Procedures Work
    (pp. 70-90)

    Of the four variables that most influence the effectiveness of the special procedures mechanism, the hardest to capture is the quality of the individual mandate holder’s work. This is because they each have their own distinct style and experience. Drawn from an increasingly diverse number of countries and legal and cultural traditions, the individuals chosen to represent the United Nations as independent human rights experts naturally bring their own personal knowledge, perspectives, and personalities to the job. In general, however, they exhibit a fundamental commitment to deploy their time, energy, and skills for the larger cause of improving respect for...

  10. 5 Bringing Implementation Home: The Role of States
    (pp. 91-104)

    How do states cooperate with the special procedures? More important, why do some states choose to cooperate with them while others do not? These are the central questions this chapter seeks to address. We know from the plethora of examples compiled in these pages that, even as they are quick to deny any cause and effect relationship, state officials feel a certain duty to respond when human rights abuses are catalogued and aired by a United Nations expert. Often a combination of domestic and international political pressure tips the balance toward decisions that favor human rights, both prospectively and to...

  11. 6 Working with the Independent Sector
    (pp. 105-121)

    As a creature of states, the UN’s special rapporteurs on human rights move in the turbulent waters of international politics as they navigate the intersection of global human rights norms and national sovereignty. These waters are roiled by the tensions that arise from the duality of soft international law and hard national power. As a result, it is fair to say that special procedures, by themselves, would have little to show from governments despite their best efforts. Yet they do not work alone. Civil society—in the form of local and international human rights organizations, victims’ groups, academics, lawyers, unions,...

  12. 7 The Future of Special Procedures
    (pp. 122-134)

    The lessons learned from four decades of human rights monitoring by the UN’s independent experts offer something to everyone concerned with promoting greater respect for universal human rights standards around the world. Governments, activists, UN officials, journalists, parliamentarians, academics, and, most important, the special rapporteurs themselves all stand to gain from the experiences catalogued in this book, particularly when viewed from the perspective of the effectiveness of the mechanism on the ground, where it matters most. Strengthening the special procedures system, however, will remain a contentious affair, as most states are naturally inclined to avoid the bitter pill of internationally...

  13. APPENDIX A Experts Working Group Members Brookings Research Project on Strengthening UN Special Procedures
    (pp. 135-136)
  14. APPENDIX B Mandate Holders (as of April 2012)
    (pp. 137-147)
  15. APPENDIX C Human Rights Council Members 2006–12
    (pp. 148-150)
  16. APPENDIX D Impact of Communications and Country Visits: Examples
    (pp. 151-163)
  17. APPENDIX E State Responses to Special Procedures Communications
    (pp. 164-167)
  18. APPENDIX F Status of Country Visits
    (pp. 168-173)
  19. APPENDIX G Methodology for Analyzing Government Replies to Special Procedures Communications
    (pp. 174-177)
  20. APPENDIX H Brookings/OSJI/UPR-Watch Summary Recommendations
    (pp. 178-182)
  21. Notes
    (pp. 183-214)
  22. Index
    (pp. 215-225)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 226-227)