Populism and International Human Rights Institutions: A Survival Guide

Human Rights in a Time of Populism: Challenges and Responses (Gerald L. Neuman, ed. 2019 Forthcoming)

iCourts Working Paper Series, No. 133, 2018

Duke Law School Public Law & Legal Theory Series No. 2018-50

29 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2018 Last revised: 28 Feb 2019

See all articles by Laurence Helfer

Laurence Helfer

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

Date Written: June 26, 2018

Abstract

Confronting 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 poses a new type of threat that international human rights law (IHRL) institutions are ill equipped to meet. This chapter begins by identifying the facilitating conditions that have, until recently, supported the international human rights system. It then assesses the distinctive challenges that populism poses to IHRL institutions. Turning from diagnosis to prescription, the chapter reviews a range of legal and political tools that might be deployed to address those challenges and explores their potential efficacy and risks. The chapter’s final section argues that IHRL institutions should adopt four survival strategies for an age of populism—playing a long game, circumspection in interpretation, publicity and outreach, and creating windows of opportunity for supporters to mobilize.

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). Human Rights in a Time of Populism: Challenges and Responses (Gerald L. Neuman, ed. 2019 Forthcoming); iCourts Working Paper Series, No. 133, 2018; Duke Law School Public Law & Legal Theory Series No. 2018-50. 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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