Human Rights: Leveraging Compliance

In: D. Held, T. Hale et al. (eds.), Beyond Gridlock (Polity, 2017)

22 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2017

See all articles by Tom Pegram

Tom Pegram

University College London

Date Written: March 18, 2017


The performance of global governance regimes across issue areas is increasingly beset by what scholars have termed the “governance dilemma” (Keohane 2001). As noted in Gridlock (Hale, Held and Young 2013), second-order trends, brought on by deepening global interdependence are combining to undermine international cooperation where it is needed most. The governance dilemma is particularly acute in a human rights domain characterized more by distributive costs than easily resolved cooperation problems. Drawing on the introduction to this book, the chapter surveys the current state of human rights scholarship and practice through an exploration of four potential pathways “through” or even “beyond” gridlock in the human rights domain, with particular attention to: (1) autonomous and adaptive institutions, and (2) plurality and diversity of actors and agencies around common goals/norms. In so doing, it highlights how human rights governance is emblematic of certain exit options from gridlock, especially mobilization of willing and able transgovernmental and transnational networks of non-state actors. This includes both civil society actors, as well as networks of national human rights institutions (NHRIs) and other official regulatory bodies, which have received growing attention of late. The chapter begins with an outline of governance arrangements in the human rights domain, including a survey of the many challenges human rights governance confronts. It then evaluates the extent to which the pathways out of gridlock identified in this project are evident in human rights governance and with what effect. The chapter concludes by reflecting on what the analysis means for advancing human rights policy objectives and overcoming multilateral gridlock more generally.

Keywords: Human rights, national institutions, multilateralism, international organization, compliance, cooperation

Suggested Citation

Pegram, Tom, Human Rights: Leveraging Compliance (March 18, 2017). In: D. Held, T. Hale et al. (eds.), Beyond Gridlock (Polity, 2017), Available at SSRN:

Tom Pegram (Contact Author)

University College London ( email )

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