I enjoyed hearing from Professors Behr and Hamrick last week, and left class wondering if something like the LGBT Working Group’s plan to address recent issues on-campus could apply to the arena of international human rights enforcement. To recap, the Working Group’s plan involves a public administration response to the article published in The Flyer, the hiring of an outside consultant, and the writing of a zero tolerance policy from one of the coaches in the athletic department.
Along with the proposal to address the issues raised in The Flyer, a redrafting of the College’s Commitment to Diversity has been suggested. Professors Hamrick and Behr mentioned that the current version of the Commitment of Diversity must be rewritten to go beyond the merely affirmative language it uses now. The focus on strongly affirmative language and weak implementation is not uncommon among organizations. As Donnelly argues in Chapter 8 of Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice, most human rights organizations focus on promoting rights rather than enforcing or implementing them. There are a few notable exceptions that Donnelly points out, such as the European Commission of Human Rights which has a track record for strongly enforcing human rights. Part of the reason for the European Commission’s ability to act as a strictly binding force is, according to Donnelly, due to its presence in a relatively homogenous region and its ability to monitor and adapt specific local practices in light of global human rights norms.
Hannah’s blog post last week drew particular attention to the vagueness of the language in Article 16 of the Universal Declaration. In the discussion that followed, it seemed that most people believed that an international consensus over a more specific wording of articles in the Universal Declaration would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. Looking at the success of the European Commission as well as the LGBT Working Group’s plan, I’d like to offer another idea for a redrafting the Universal Declaration.
To encourage a more global shift from promotion to enforcement, perhaps each country could be required to draft a “zero tolerance” policy for human rights violations by drawing from the Universal Declaration. I’m not sure how the requirement would be mandated, or who would be responsible for drafting the document within each country, but I really like the idea of having, in the case of the Rhodes athletics department, a coach draft the zero tolerance policy for the athletics community. The policy is universal in the sense that it is rooted in the College’s Commitment to Diversity, yet it also has the specificity often necessary to ensure compliance of broader norms. I think that this type of model will result in a higher level of relevance and accountability, and that a similar approach could be applied in the international community. Although, it does raise a ton of questions. Who would oversee the drafting and ratification of these policies? Could the UN Commission on Human Rights read all the proposals and give the final stamp of approval? What would happen if the UN or other countries disagreed with the policies articulated in another country’s zero tolerance policy or didn’t find them sufficient? Would country-specific zero tolerance policies be an effective way to enforce human rights, or simply another opportunity for tyrants to find loopholes in legislation?