Princeton University Library Catalog

The American Human Rights Convention: Motivations and Efficacy

Hill, Emily [Browse]
Senior thesis
Moravcsik, Andrew [Browse]
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs [Browse]
Class year:
140 pages
Summary note:
Research Question: This thesis will examine the formation and the effectiveness of the regional human rights system that emerged in the Western Hemisphere after World War II. By examining this system, which involves countries in a wide variety of political contexts, this thesis will determine the most accurate framework under which one can analyze the topic of human rights in the Western Hemisphere. This thesis will then work to determine whether ratification status serves as an accurate predictor of full compliance in the Inter- American system. If other patterns emerge, this thesis will seek to explain why some states comply and some do not, determining which of the existing theoretical compliance frameworks is most appropriate for the Inter-American system. Research Methods: This thesis uses secondary source material to provide an overview of the formation of the major universal and regional human rights regimes. In its ratification discussion, this thesis begins by examining the work of international relations theorists who have examined the topic of human rights treaty ratification. It then continues to analyze documentation of the Organization of American States archives related to the drafting of the Convention, as well as both contemporary and secondary sources discussing developments in human rights and democracy in countries studied. In its discussion of compliance with the Inter-American system, this thesis examines the work of international relations scholars who have researched the subject of compliance with binding human rights regimes. This section analyzes both subject countries’ histories in the field of human rights and democratic governance and individual case studies from the Inter-American Court (or Commission, when Court cases were unavailable due to lack of ratification). To complete these aims, it uses a combination of secondary sources providing generalized historical backgrounds, contemporary news accounts, documents and communications, and Inter-American Court decisions and compliance rulings. Major Themes and Findings: This thesis determines that a liberal framework predicts both ratification and compliance patterns in the Inter-American system. In ratification, this thesis finds that political structure and trajectory has the largest influence on a state’s willingness to ratify the American Convention on Human Rights, with new, fragile democracies demonstrating greatest commitment to the treaty as a means of “locking in” democracy. In its discussion of compliance patterns in the Inter-American system, this thesis again finds that political structure, in interaction with domestic preferences and security situations, has the greatest influence on compliance. Democratic governments with weak institutions or heavy military influence, in particular, are less likely to respect the rulings of the Court than governments in which institutions and domestic push (whether from civil society, the executive branch, legislature or the judiciary) are strong.