Getting to Rights: Treaty Ratification, Constitutional Convergence, and Human Rights Practice

40 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2013  

Zachary Elkins

University of Texas, Austin

Tom Ginsburg

University of Chicago Law School

Beth A. Simmons

University of Pennsylvania Law School

Date Written: July 22, 2013

Abstract

This Article examines the adoption of rights in national constitutions in the post-World War II period in light of claims of global convergence. Using a comprehensive database on the contents of the world’s constitutions, we observe a qualified convergence on the content of rights. Nearly every single right has increased in prevalence since its introduction, but very few are close to universal. We show that international rights documents, starting with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, have shaped the rights menu of national constitutions in powerful ways. These covenants appear to coordinate the behavior of domestic drafters, whether or not the drafters’ countries are legally committed to the agreements (though commitment enhances the effect). Our particular focus is on the all-important International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, whose ratification inclines countries towards rights they, apparently, would not otherwise adopt. This finding confirms the complementary relationship between treaty ratification and domestic constitutional norms, and suggests that one important channel of treaty efficacy may be through domestic constitutions.

Suggested Citation

Elkins, Zachary and Ginsburg, Tom and Simmons, Beth A., Getting to Rights: Treaty Ratification, Constitutional Convergence, and Human Rights Practice (July 22, 2013). Harvard International Law Journal, Vol. 54, No. 1, 2013; U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 434. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2296607

Zachary Elkins

University of Texas, Austin ( email )

Austin, TX 78712
United States

Tom Ginsburg (Contact Author)

University of Chicago Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Beth A. Simmons

University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

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