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This article examines the proliferation of national human rights institutions (NHRIs) and seeks to explain the drivers of this institutional innovation across contrasting political regimes. This article suggests that the NHRI phenomenon can be attributed to increasingly sophisticated international organizational platforms and three distinct, but complementary, mechanisms of diffusion: (1) coercion, (2) acculturation, and (3) persuasion. The article argues that a powerful international process of diffusion is at work and NHRIs are no longer the exclusive preserve of liberal democratic regimes. Instead NHRIs have diffused to a wide range of political systems, subjecting these human rights institutions to new and often competing demands and expectations.