Impact Workshop Summary Now Available

A summary of the IAHRN’s workshop, on the impact of the Inter-American Human Rights System, held in Mexico City in October 2014, is now available. The document contains a concise presentation of the key findings and main areas of debate as they developed during the event. A policy brief, drafted on the basis of the discussions, will be published in the coming weeks.

Some of the main points and conclusions drawn from the workshop include the following:

  • The impact of the IAHRS depends on the domestic political configuration of the target country, and the correlation of state and non-state forces. The abrupt fall of autocratic regimes may provide a favourable context for impact (over the short-term) as new authorities seek to distance themselves from the abuses of the past. Even where immediate compliance with IAHRS rulings has been lacking, as in Guatemala, this does not mean they have had no impact. Later cases may gradually begin to draw on this international jurisprudence.
  • Different countries across the region accord different weight to international law, but the actual implementation of IAHRS decisions often does not necessarily correlate with their formal legal status. Compliance with human rights rulings tends to be higher where the system has made specific recommendations and where mechanisms are in place to allow for monitoring of their implementation. However, even where compliance with rulings is low, IAHRS decisions can still have indirect impacts by providing important influencing tools to progressive elements within state institutions and broader society.
  • A key factor allowing the IAHRS to have had an impact is the legitimacy the system has built up over the years. This derives from the decisions it has made, the impact it has had in individual cases, and the relationships it has developed with state and non-state actors alike. Another important factor is the complementarity of its component instruments. Impact has been greatest where the several different tools of the IAHRs have fed into each other, amplifying the effect of its work on the rights issue in question.
  • Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have become the lifeblood of the IAHRS, but their engagement with the system varies greatly between organisations and between countries over time. Whilst their input is often positive, some challenges arise from the fact that the interests of CSO petitioners do not always perfectly coincide with those of victims. Victims’ primary concern is often, but not always, to gain resolution for their own situation, more so than it is to seek to obtain a society-wide change as a result of their case. CSO petitioners however, may prefer to instead seek measures which have the greatest potential impact on the broader human rights environment.
  • Despite significant differences between regional human rights mechanisms in the Americas and Africa, the two systems face many similar challenges. Developing new comparative scholarly initiatives between the two systems and opening channels of constant dialogue between users and practitioners of both, would likely produce new insights which could potentially increase the impact of both systems.

For further details regarding any of these issues, please download the full workshop summary.

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