Abstract

National human rights commissions have proliferated around the world in recent years. These commissions are government agencies, which are designed to implement international human rights norms domestically. The rise of these institutions, however, cannot be understood without considering the international context. In particular, existing national commissions like those of Canada have worked actively to create and strengthen human rights commissions abroad. I refer to this process as one of transgovernmental activism. This article explores the contours of this activism, focusing specifically on the role played by the Canadian Human Rights Commission. In so doing, I trace the complex partnerships and institutional linkages that the Commission is forging both inside and outside Canada. I then examine four major forms of technical assistance that the Commission is providing to other national human rights commissions: training, consultation, exchanges, and networking. I conclude the article by drawing lessons from the Canadian experience and identifying emerging challenges. Above all, I find that improvements need to be made in three key areas: foreign government commitment, resource shortages, and an evaluation deficit. Once human rights commissions are created, international actors need to cooperate to assure that these institutions are in fact effective.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1085-794X
Print ISSN
0275-0392
Pages
pp. 775-790
Launched on MUSE
2003-08-05
Open Access
No
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