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Weak institutions, rights claims and pathways to compliance: the transformative role of the Human Rights Ombudsman. Thomas Pegram University of Oxford 27 July 2010 thomas.pegram@nuffield.ox.ac.uk. National human rights institutions.

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Weak institutions, rights claims and pathways to compliance: the transformative role of the Human Rights Ombudsman

Thomas Pegram

University of Oxford

27 July 2010

thomas.pegram@nuffield.ox.ac.uk

national human rights institutions
National human rights institutions

‘They have a crucial role to play in the effective implementation of international human rights standards at the national level by promoting the development of laws and practices consistent with those standards and monitoring their implementation. National human rights institutions can thus strengthen national protection systems by translating international human rights norms in a way that reflects national contexts and specificities.’

Secretary General Ban-Ki moon (August 2009)

the argument
The argument

Why does the ombudsman matter, how does it works in practice, and, crucially, under what conditions can it effectively advance human rights claims, especially of those most marginalized in society?

  • (1) development of formal design principles is important in explaining effectiveness.
  • However, (2) the informal dimension of ombudsmen’s relations with organized state and social actors and rules of access across accountability arenas is often decisive.
broader institutional settings
Broader institutional settings
  • ‘…translating international human rights norms in a way that reflects national contexts and specificities.’
  • ‘Brown areas’ in Latin America where formal rules of the game bear little resemblance to widely accepted informal practices.
  • Problematise the idea of weak institutions, rights claims and compliance.
  • Breadth and depth of political openings
obstacles to engagement
Obstacles to engagement

“…we have not yet resolved the matter of how to be the Ombudsman of the most vulnerable.”

  • Penetration of rural zones
  • Capability of claimants
  • Insertion into pre-existing frameworks
  • Local perceptions of the ombudsman
  • Inflated expectations and disillusionment
influence in context causal mechanisms
Influence in context: causal mechanisms

(1) Expansive interpretation of mandate

  • ‘Play’ in the interpretation of formal rules
  • Anomalous ombudsman features
  • Commitment to poverty and social exclusion

(2) Leadership of individual Ombudspersons:

  • Internal functionings: ‘organizational mystique’
  • External reputation
  • Ability to navigate official and social interests
the anomalous ombudsman conflict prevention and response
The anomalous ombudsman: conflict prevention and response
  • Design: mandate expressly guaranteed during States of Emergency
  • Interpretation of mandate: unstable political regimes displaying persistent low-intensity violence and armed conflict
  • Activation of mandate:
    • Monitoring and early-warning capabilities (Colombia and Peru)
    • Preventative constitutional actions (Peru)
    • Intervention: ‘bear witness’ (Peru and Colombia)
    • Prosecution for victim reparations (Colombia)