24 October 2012

How Malliable Are Human Rights Policies?

Human rights policies are very indifferent to outside pressures and policies in neighboring countries. Deep historical origins and geographic factors play a much larger role, contrary to the economic development theories of the "New Institutionalists."

[D]eep determinants are the main shaping force of spatial patterns in human rights performance, while interaction effects play only a minor role. The time invariant factors, related to history and physical geography account for most of the variation in outcomes.

A hypothesized second set of causes stems from interaction effects. These include the pressure from peer countries’ human rights records when competing for international (direct) investments or foreign aid. These interaction effects, however, find only marginal support in the data.

Apparently, on average countries do not respond to their neighbors’ human rights performance, or at least take a very long response time.

This statistical finding is inconsistent with the idea that countries can easily be pressured from the outside to change their respect for human rights. Likewise, for donors and development organizations seeking to improve human rights records in a region, the external effects of bilateral action seems limited.

We do want to note, however, that the analysis looks at average effects, which implies that there will be particular cases where outcomes can differ, such as for countries in severe conflict.

From Gerrit Faber and Michiel Gerritse Deep Determinants or Interactions: Explaining Spatial Patterns in Human Rights (October 17, 2012).

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