1/2006 Content

81 (2006) 1: Human Rights Convenants: Revisited After 40 Years

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Editorial: In honorem Christian Tomuschat
Georg Nolte


World Culture vs. Particularism: The Debate on the Universality of Human Rights Norms from the Perspective of Treaty Ratification
Anja Jetschke

The article summarizes recent research results on the relationship between the ratification of major human rights treaties and their impact on evaluations of human rights violations. On the one hand, a global shift in the ratification of human rights treaties is observable, which indicates that international human rights norms have acquired a universal character. On the other hand, the ratification of treaties does not correlate with an improvement in human rights practices. The article presents various theories of International Relations and (1) discusses how these theories position themselves with regard to the debate on the cultural relativism of international human rights norms and (2) how they explain the lack of enforcement of human rights norms. It argues that IR theories have contributed to rationalizing the cultural explanation for non-compliance in the area of human rights and have circumscribed the scope of essentialist cultural explanations.

Epistula (non) erubescit. The system of state reporting as instrument of international law enforcement
Andrea Liese

This article examines the central instrument of international law enforcement within the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the mandatory system of state reporting. It analyzes the impact of the reporting procedure on national human rights policies, factors undermining its effectiveness, and the potential of the reform process to help strengthen the procedure and contribute to its enforcement. The author argues that (1) despite restricted competences and limited resources, the reporting procedure contributes to a certain extent to compliance de jure. But it is difficult to establish whether the procedure contributes to the de facto improvement of national human rights performance. (2) The procedure suffers from a heavy workload and lacks the necessary recognition and publicity. (3) The current plans for a reform of the treaty bodies might help to overcome some of the problems mentioned in this article, others will remain in the foreseeable future.

Monitoring and Measuring Human Rights – a brief survey
Anna Würth

As shown by qualitative studies, treaty ratification has had a greatly uneven impact on human rights practices by governments. Quantitative studies correlating treaty ratification and government practices come to mixed results. Some claim that ratification does not significantly improve human rights practices, others argue that they do even though this can hardly be demonstrated by empirical analysis. It is against this backdrop that measuring human rights in principle, practice and as outcomes acquires a special significance – guiding states as to monitoring for processes and results, and providing human rights actors, both domestic and international with an additional basis as to their policy strategies.

40 Years of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Outcome and Perspectives
Brigitte Hamm / Alexander Kocks

40 years after its adoption by the General Assembly of the United Nations, the effectiveness of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – in terms of the realization of all rights codified in the covenant – turns out to be negative. Nevertheless, the Covenant has yielded important political and legal processes which, in the long-term, establish the conditions for a more effective implementation of at least some key economic social rights. The article discusses these processes at three levels: agenda-and normsetting, norm development as well as institutionalization of implementation procedures. The results show that the rights laid down in the Covenant have gained considerable precision and growing acceptance as justiciable rights. Moreover, the implementation of an individual complaint mechanism to the covenant has been increasingly approved by experts and governments.

The UN Security Council as the Guardian of Human Rights
Heike Krieger

The UN Security Council’s function in maintaining international peace and security comprises the absence of large-scale, man-made human sufferings. Although members of the Security Council were not always able to protect human rights efficiently, the Council’s decisions are based – from a legal point of view -on consistent criteria for action. Moreover, the Council enjoys discretionary powers which do not create a duty to act. In the follow-up of the unilateral interventions in Kosovo and Iraq member States have also accepted broad competences of the Security Council to deal with human rights for the purpose of long-term conflict prevention. Thus, States hope the prevent more severe forms of unilateral interventions and try to create a more efficient system of conflict prevention within the UN.

From the Commission on Human Rights to the Human Rights Council
Wolfgang S. Heinz

Since the end of the 1990’s, a discussion has emerged on the reform of the UN Commission on Human Rights. Positions have been advanced from different groups of state actors, some promoting human rights, others are shielding themselves from what they perceive to be unfair human rights criticisms. The new UN Human Rights Council began its work in June 2006. Despite substantial head wind, pro-human rights States were successful in helping to maintain all substantial elements of the mandate. A new feature is the commitment to peer review among all UN member states. Ultimately the extent to which the fairly open framework of the new Council will be used will depend on the pressure of the international civil community, pro-human rights governments and the political atmosphere of cooperation prevailing in the UN.

Problems of implementing children’s rights. The activities of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child
Lothar Krappmann

The Convention on the Rights of the Child was ratified by 192 states, which meet their obligation of reporting about the implementation of the Convention within their territory to a large extent. However, the monitoring Committee on the Rights of the Child established by the Convention has almost no means by which it can sanction violations of the provisions of the Convention, which still are widespread. In many countries a change of fundamental attitudes towards children is needed. The author argues that the public dialogue of State Party and monitoring Committee is the most appropriate way to promote changed attitudes and practice in various socio-cultural contexts. Applied and proposed procedures of strengthening the dialogue are assessed.

Public-Private Partnerships in the United Nations System. A Human Rights Perspective
Renate Martinsen / Thomas Melde

Aiming at a more effective implementation of human rights, the United Nations counts increasingly on cooperative partnerships with trans-national corporations. The article interprets these Public-Private Partnerships as a part of the developing Global Governance architecture and as the result of a paradigm shift among the United Nations, involving the growing awareness of the necessity of cooperation with private economic actors in rule and standard setting, rule implementation, and the provision of services within the global human rights regime. This paradigm shift has led to a remarkable increase of partnership projects. The article argues that Public-Private Partnerships in the realm of human rights have the potential for a more effective enforcement of the protection of human rights in the long run.


The Middle East War of 2006. An Outline
Christian Tomuschat

Land for War – How to Understand Guerilla Warfare
Michael Wolffsohn