Promoting and Protecting Human Rights through Effective National Institutions
Human rights improvements for individuals happen at the national level. This requires a robust national human rights system comprised of bodies that are effective in implementing (the executive), enforcing (the judiciary), overseeing and scrutinizing (the parliament, independent oversight bodies, civil society) adherence to international human rights standards. But how can this effectiveness be determined? By looking at one important element of the national system - National Human Rights Institutions (NHRI) - this talk will consider the concept of effectiveness for institutions engaged in the promotion and protection of human rights. NHRIs are established by states to independently promote and protect international human rights standards and although they are a relatively new type of institution – the majority have only been established in the past 5 to 10 years - they have become a global phenomenon, with over 100 institutions now covering almost every region and sub-region of the world. Through examining the role, functions and practice of NHRIs, this talk will propose how effectiveness for NHRIs can be defined, what factors impact their effectiveness, their current and potential impact on human rights where they are effective, and the potential dangers where they are not.
Kirsten Roberts is a PhD candidate and Dickson Poon Scholar at the Dickson Poon School of Law, King's College London, where her research focuses on the effectiveness of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRI) and on parliamentary oversight of human rights. From 2008-2013, she was Acting Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Research, Policy and Promotion of the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC), Ireland's A-Status NHRI and from 2008–2011 she was also coordinator of the European Group of NHRIs. For the 2012/2013 academic year, Kirsten was a Visiting Researcher at Harvard Law School. She has previously worked at the UN-International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, European Court of Human Rights, European Court of Justice and Amnesty International. She has spoken and written widely on the subject of NHRIs and acted as an advisor and consultant for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Development Program on the development of NHRIs. She has also been an independent expert on fundamental rights for the EU and sits on the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs' Standing Committee on Human Rights.