An appraisal of institutions of global governance: the case of the African human rights system.

Author:Asare, Bossman E.


In an anarchic global system where there is an absence of a central authority to govern states behavior, (2) within the framework of structural realism, institutions of global governance play a very important role by attempting to fill this gap through the development and enforcement of international norms among states. While admitting that such global governance institutions lack sovereignty to effectively enforce rules, they do wield some forms of power derived from the very essence of such institutions, their resources and those powers conceded to them by states who are party to those global institutions. Moreover, within the understanding of pooled sovereignty, countries that are parties to these global governance institutions recognize the importance of allowing such institutions to perform certain functions on their behalf (Kegley and Blanton 2010).

Institutions such as the United Nations, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization, the European and African Unions among others have been able to apply their mandate and powers to make positive impacts in addressing poverty reduction in the global south and the global protection of human rights. For instance, the IMF and the World Bank, through their structural adjustment programs of the 1980s and 1990s came to the rescue of many economies from collapsing in the global south. (3) The United Nations has been leading the global crusade for the protection of universal human rights since 1948, advancing from the protection of civil and political rights to its current focus on non-state actors' responsibility to protect human rights. In spite of these endeavors, there have been challenges of enforcement of decisions and the lack of adequate resources.

In Africa, the defunct Organization of Africa Unity (OAU) as well as its predecessor, the African Union, has taken steps to protect human rights in the post-independence era. (4) (5) The African Union's human rights system which finds expression mainly in the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights have made remarkable efforts aimed at protecting human rights through the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and its protocols, and the respective supervisory mechanisms they have established. However, its ability to be effective has been challenged. This paper examines the effectiveness of the African human rights system within the context of global system changes and how such changes can be studied in international studies using Oran Young's framework of effectiveness of global governance institutions.

This paper proceeds in three main sections. Beyond this introduction, the paper presents the Young framework of the effectiveness of international institutions, which sets out the specific questions this paper answers. Next it presents the institutions and structures that make up the African human rights system while examining the effectiveness of the African human rights system based on that framework. In the final section, it considers the determinants of effectiveness of international institutions in Africa and presents a discussion before it concludes.

The Young Framework of the Effectiveness of International Institutions

Young presents his framework in an attempt to assess the role of international regimes in influencing individual and collective behavior of states at the international level. In short, the framework is developed to determine whether institutions matter in international relations. While suggesting a general level definition of effectiveness as a measure of the role of social institutions in shaping behavior in international society, Young holds that an institution is effective "to the extent that its operations impel actors to behave differently than they would if the institution did not exist or if some other institutional arrangements were put in its place." (6) This implies institutional power to make a difference in the behavior of states in the international system. Young's conception of institutions is similar to political scientists explanation that institutions provide the rules and regulations that guide the activities of individuals (Asare 2012). Essentially institutions make the effort to control the actions and inactions of individuals thereby ensuring that the goals of institutions take precedence over that of individuals working in the institutions.

Young presents the state as the unit of analysis in his framework. The framework's assessment of effectiveness is not limited to the behavior of states in responding to the requests of international institutions but also, the extent of implementation of regime principles in the territories that fall within states' jurisdiction. (7) In this scheme, the behavior of states encompasses their conduct both domestically and internationally. The Young framework identifies the concept of collective behavior as encompassing states aggregate behavior as well as the outcome of collaborative processes of at least two states in the international society. (8) In specific terms, effectiveness of institutions may be measured based on the responses to the following inquiries. Has the operation of the institution alleviated the problem that led to its formation? Have the participants been able and willing to implement the principal provisions of the institutions in their jurisdictions? Have the provisions of the institution been internalized by members such that they ordinarily comply with the core principles? Is the operation of the institution cost-effective? Can the institution adapt to changing circumstances without losing its capacity to handle the problem it was created to resolve? Is the institution able to survive intact in a changing social, biological, and physical environment? (9) In short, effectiveness is a measure of the role that institutions play in determining the content of individual and collective behavior. (10) Beyond this, Young identifies certain critical variables which he considers as sources of institutional effectiveness. While categorizing them into endogenous and exogenous factors, he identifies transparency, robustness, transformation rules, capacity of governments, and the distribution of power, independence, and intellectual order.

Young makes use of the term "international society" rather than for instance, states in the international system which is suggestive of a community of states unified by common aspirations and values or at least guided by them. Also, the framework sets the determination of effectiveness as a matter of extent rather than "an all-or-nothing-at all propositions." (11) Importantly, this scheme of institutions of global governance is within the liberal global order created by the United States after the World War II. This paper is therefore structured within this framework. Based on the African system of human rights, it attempts to answer the defining questions of effectiveness of the African human rights system and assesses the variables of effectiveness to see how the variables may affect the extent of efficiency of the African system of human rights.

The African System of Human Rights

The African Human Rights System refers to the human rights institutions established within the defunct OAU, now the African Union. The coming into force of the Constitutive Act of the African Union saw the transformation of the OAU to the African Union. (12) While this implies a number of institutions, this essay will limit the meaning of the African human rights system to the two major treaty bodies-the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (the African Commission) and the African Court of Human and Peoples' Rights (African Court) based on the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights which came into force in 1986. (13)

Since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948, human rights treaties and institutions have proliferated across the world. (14) This proliferation has not been limited to the global level as regional blocks have established human rights bodies. (15) While the European continent has the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American system has the Inter-American Court of Human Rights as well as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights based on the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights. (16) These developments are not independent of the liberal global order created by the US after the World War II. (17)

Some argue that developments in the international scene under the leadership of the US through its foreign policy enhanced the development of an African human rights system. (18) The construction of a liberal global order involved the foreign policy objective of the spread of US values across the world. (19) During the 1970's the OAU did not have a human rights treaty except its reliance on the UDHR and the OAU's Charter which has some references to human rights in its preamble and four substantive provisions. (20) The role of the UN as a creator of human rights norms cannot be over-emphasized as its bill of rights and promotional activities were important in the spread of human rights institutions across the world. (21) Based on its preoccupation with the liberation of the rest of the continent from colonialism, respect for state sovereignty and the right to external self-determination, the OAU failed to condemn, much less to intervene in the Burundi massacres of 1972 and 1973, where thousands of the Hutu ethnic group lost their lives, the repressive Idi Amin regime in Uganda and the Central African Republic's repressive government under Jean-Bedel Bokasa between 1966 and 1979. (22)

The role of the US cannot be overemphasized in the creation of international human rights and its regimes across the world. President Jimmy Carter made human rights an important aspect of his foreign...

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