Populism and International Human Rights Institutions: A Survival Guide

iCourts Working Paper Series, No. 133, 2018

20 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2018  

Laurence Helfer

Duke University School of Law; University of Copenhagen - iCourts - Centre of Excellence for International Courts

Date Written: June 26, 2018

Abstract

Confronting recalcitrant and even hostile governments is nothing new for international human rights courts, treaty bodies, and other monitoring mechanisms. Yet there is a growing sense that the recent turn to populism in several countries poses a new type of threat that international human rights law (IHRL) institutions are ill equipped to meet. The concerns range in scope and intensity—from criticisms of specific rulings or legal doctrines, to predictions of backlash against particular courts or review bodies, to warnings that major sections of the institutional edifice of IHRL are in danger of collapse.

Part 1 of this essay identifies several facilitating conditions that have, until recently, supported IHRL institutions. Part 2 considers several distinctive challenges that populism poses to those institutions. Part 3 identifies a range of legal and political tools that might be deployed to address those challenges and explores their efficacy and potential risks. Part 4 concludes that IHRL institutions should adopt survival strategies for the age of populism and it preliminarily sketches what those strategies might look like.

Keywords: International, Human, Rights, Courts, Institutions, Populism, Law, Backlash, Politics, Survival, Strategies

Suggested Citation

Helfer, Laurence, Populism and International Human Rights Institutions: A Survival Guide (June 26, 2018). iCourts Working Paper Series, No. 133, 2018. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3202633 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3202633

Laurence Helfer (Contact Author)

Duke University School of Law ( email )

210 Science Dr.
Box 90360
Durham, NC 27708
United States
+1-919-613-8573 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://law.duke.edu/fac/helfer/

University of Copenhagen - iCourts - Centre of Excellence for International Courts ( email )

University of Copenhagen Faculty of Law
Karen Blixens Plads 16
Copenhagen S, DK-2300
Denmark

HOME PAGE: http://jura.ku.dk/icourts/

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