Do international human rights treaties improve respect for human rights?
After the non-binding Universal Declaration of Human Rights, many global and regional human rights treaties have been concluded. Critics argue that these are unlikely to have made any actual difference in reality. Others contend that international regimes can improve respect for human rights in state parties, particularly in more democratic countries or countries with a strong civil society devoted to human rights and with transnational links. Our findings suggest that rarely does treaty ratification have unconditional effects on human rights. Instead, improvement in human rights is typically more likely the more democratic the country or the more international non-governmental organizations its citizens participate in. Conversely, in very autocratic regimes with weak civil society, ratification can be expected to have no effect and is sometimes even associated with more rights violation.
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