Treaties and Human Rights: The Role of Long-Term Trends
30 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2016 Last revised: 16 Jan 2019
Date Written: August 12, 2018
A number of researchers have argued that positive correlations between human rights treaty ratifications and improvements in human rights outcomes provide evidence that ratification causes countries to be less repressive. However, this literature has overlooked the possibility that human rights improvements that took place after treaty ratifications may have been caused by historical factors that long predate treaty ratifications. As Acemoglu et al. (2008) demonstrated for the related controversy over the relationship between democracy and national income, panel regressions that properly account for the influence of long-term trends may eliminate spurious correlations between variables of interest. In this spirit, we reexamine the evidence that treaty ratifications and human rights improvement positively correlate. In the evidence we present, the positive correlations between treaties and human rights largely disappear when accounting for trends in the data.
Keywords: Human Rights, International Law, Treaties, Women’s Rights, Torture
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