National human rights institutions (NHRIs) are no longer the institutional oddity they were only ten or fifteen years ago. The speed with which they have moved from the periphery to the central arena of human rights politics – international and domestic – is largely unprecedented. This book is an attempt to take stock of the extraordinary proliferation and growing significance of NHRIs, as the first phase of international promotion and proliferation gives way to a second one of organizational consolidation and outward projection in shaping new human rights norms. The book also uses NHRIs as a lens to examine broader questions about human rights and the diffusion of international norms. With a diverse array of contributors, we explore these subjects from multiple disciplinary perspectives, professional experiences, and geographical areas of expertise.
The idea for this volume emerged out of a series of conferences, lectures, and fellowships convened by the Human Rights Program, Harvard Law School, during the period that Ryan Goodman served as director of the program. A goal of those initiatives was to enhance the study and practice of these novel institutions and develop linkages between legal and social science scholars, policy makers, and practitioners. Conferences held in June 2007 and May 2008 convened an array of scholars and practitioners from around the world to share their insights and experiences working from within and outside NHRIs. Crucial input was received from many people at these various conferences, meetings, and related lecture series. In particular, we wish to thank Emilio Álvarez Icaza Longoria, Raymond Atuguba, William Binchy, Brian Burdekin, Andrew Byrnes, James Cavallaro, Hyo-Je Cho, Andrew Clapham, Jorge Contesse, Brice Dickson, Raquel Dodge, Martin Flaherty, Diego García Sayán, Tyler Giannini, Mario Gomez, Niels Erik Hansen, Maina Kiai, Ifdahl Kasim, Morten Kjærum, C. Raj Kumar, Katerina Linos, Jennifer Lynch, Gianni Magazzeni, Mohamed Mahmoud Mohamedou, Rashida Manjoo, Maurice Manning, Ravi Nair, Binaifer Nowrojee, Michael O’Flaherty, Sharanjeet Parmar, Gerard Quinn, Mindy Roseman, Eric Rosenthal, Sima Samar, Miguel Sarre, Margaret Sekaggya, Emile Short, Sébastien Sigouin, Vijayashri Sripati, Michael Stein, Chris Stone, Tseliso Thipanyane, Sergiu Troie, Andrew Woods, and David Zionts, in addition to the contributors to the present volume.