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Explaining ratification of human rights treaties : signaling for aid during regional crises

  • Author(s): Smith, Heather Michelle
  • et al.
Abstract

In the face of pressure from transnational social groups and increasingly influential human rights organizations the international community has quietly introduced provisions into four global human rights treaties that challenge the received wisdom in international relations. These individual petition mechanisms allow citizens to file complaints of human rights violations against their governments before global tribunals. International relations scholarship suggests that governments should be unlikely to ratify such provisions and accept UN oversight of their domestic human rights policies. Why do states ratify these mechanisms, particularly when ratification of the accompanying treaties does not require ratification of the individual petition Mechanism (IPM)? This work provides a quantitative analysis of ratification of individual petition mechanisms in the four global institutions that possess them and a qualitative analysis of ratification in two geographic regions. I argue that autocrats and democrats use ratification of individual petition mechanisms as a signaling device to attract aid. After regional political crises have ravaged their domestic economies I argue that state leaders will be more inclined to seek out ways to attract aid from western donors. Regional political crises intensify the need for aid and help to explain the timing of ratification. I find support for the link between regional political crises and ratification in the Racial Discrimination and Women's Discrimination Conventions in Chapter 2. Chapter 3 demonstrates that Slovak Prime Minister Meciar and Czech Prime Minister Zeman ratified Article 14 in the Racial Discrimination Convention to signal for aid. In Chapter 4 I demonstrate that autocratic leaders in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan accepted the oversight of the Human Rights Committee by ratifying the Optional Protocol to the ICCPR to signal for aid. In the short term leaders ratify IPM's insincerely and then clamp down particularly hard on their citizens' civil rights. However, in the long term, regional human rights groups latch onto the decisions of UN oversight committees and pressure governments, even the most entrenched autocrats, to make significant changes to their domestic human rights practices

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