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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: June 2012

5 - Regional application of human rights norms

from Part II - Implementing human rights standards

Summary

The world may be a smaller place in the light of communication and travel technology, but it is still a large planet when it comes to effective international governance. Given the approximately 6 billion persons and the 190 states or so that existed at the turn of the twenty-first century, and given the weakness of global organizations like the United Nations, it was both logical and sometimes politically feasible to look to regional organizations for the advancement of human rights. This chapter will show that regional developments for human rights have been truly remarkable in Europe, decidedly ambiguous in the Western Hemisphere, embryonic in Africa, and otherwise weak. The key to the effective regional protection of human rights is not legal drafting, but underlying political culture, political will, and political acumen. In Europe where there are considerable cases and other regional human rights decisions to analyze, I provide a summary analysis. In the Western Hemisphere with substantial case law and other important regional decisions only recently, I provide mostly political analysis of underlying conditions but some attention to legal factors. I treat Africa briefly because of lack of impact through regional arrangements.

Europe

After World War II, significant US foreign aid to Europe in the form of the Marshall Plan encouraged regional cooperation, especially of an economic nature. Most West European elites endorsed this approach at least to some degree, both in pursuit of economic recovery and to defend traditional western values in the face of Soviet-led communism. One result was the creation of the Council of Europe (CE) with its strong focus on human rights. Separately, owing to reluctance of the UK to integrate fully with the rest of Western Europe, one had the development of the European Communities, which more or less evolved into the European Union (EU). By the start of the twenty-first century it was evident that this bifurcation, while it had “worked” to a considerable degree, was not a completely happy situation. As European international integration proceeded, the contradictions of bifurcation were salient as never before. In addition to the EU and the CE, there was also the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), not to mention the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). While trans-Atlantic, they had substantial European membership.

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Suggestions for further reading
Ankumah, Evelyn A The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights: Practice and Procedures The Hague Martinus Nijhoff 1996
An-Na'im, Ahmed Deng, Francis M Human Rights in Africa: Cross-Cultural Perspectives Washington Brookings 1990
Aziz, Miriam The Impact of European Rights on National Legal Cultures Oxford Hart Publishing Ltd 2004
Bartels, Lorand Human Rights Conditionality and EU External Relations Oxford Oxford University Press 2005
Beddard, R. Human Rights and Europe Cambridge Grotius Publications 1993
Cardenas, Sonia Human Rights in Latin America: The Politics of Terror and Hope Philadelphia University of Pennsylvania Press 2009
Davidson, Scott The Inter-American Human Rights System Aldershot Dartmouth 1997
Farer, Tom The Rise of the Inter-American Human Rights Regime: No Longer a Unicorn, Not Yet an Ox Human Rights Quarterly 19 1997 510
Jackson, Donald W The United Kingdom Confronts the European Convention on Human Rights Gainesville University Press of Florida 1997
Janis, Mark Kay, Richard Bradly, Anthony European Human Rights Law New York Oxford University Press 2008
Kissinger, Henry Years of Renewal New York Simon & Schuster 1999
Korey, William The Promises We Keep: Human Rights, the Helsinki Process, and American Foreign Policy New York St. Martin's Press 1993
Neuwahl, Nanette A Rosas, Allan The European Union and Human Rights The Hague Martinus Nijhoff 1995
Umozurike, U. Oji The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights The Hague Martinus Nijhoff 1997
Williams, Andrew EU Human Rights Policies: A Study in Irony Oxford Oxford University Press 2004