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Coercive versus non-coercive implementation of international human rights

Speaker: Professor Jack Donnelly, University of Denver
Chair: Francesca Klug, Centre for the Study of Human Rights, LSE
December 2001

International human rights norms have been largely internationalized in documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Human Rights Covenants. Their implementation, however, has been left largely in the hands of states. With the exception of the strong European regional regime, multilateral human rights institutions have a largely promotional and supervisory character. Bilateral efforts at international implementation are severely constrained by the principles of sovereignty and non-intervention and the costs imposed on states. Over the past decade, however, important new initiatives have been launched to establish individual criminal responsibility for human rights violations. In addition, coercive humanitarian intervention has become an increasingly frequent and prominent feature of international politics. How much progress do such new international judicial and coercive options represent for international human rights? Is the focus in these mechanisms on genocide and similarly extreme violations the most productive path forward? Professor Donnelly will argue that the most important work of international human rights remains focused in the activities of national governments and activists, transnational advocacy networks, and non-coercive bilateral and multilateral diplomacy.

Jack Donnelly is Professor of International Studies at the University of Denver, and the author of numerous books and articles, including Realism and International Relations (Cambridge University Press, 2000) and International Human Rights (Westview Press, 1998).