The question concerning the current human rights regime is whether it can really deal with the challenges in the future. Many will say it cannot, because it is nation-state-centred, and the threats cannot be solved by governments. For a lot of people this notion is problematic. If the current regime is not solving the problems, then who is? Who will decide in the future on the mechanisms that will govern in this sense? And who will make a difference and solve the problems?
Governments are sharing a lot of power and responsibilities with different local and international organisations. The decisions on what human rights norms we should talk about are often deferred to the international level. There is a constant deferral to the international level. More on and more the protection of human rights is deferred to the local level and there might be a risk that governments will no longer safeguard human rights because they outsource it.
If you think about international conventions during the Cold War, you had mainly states crafting them, now we have norms that are only drafted by international NGOs. This means that the whole of civil society has played a crucial role and has taken over the standards. Then we have the second level, the states, and then we have the local level. There is a tendency to hold individuals accountable.
When we talk about the quality of these new mechanisms, when you describe quality you are talking about effectiveness. When the international level does not solve the problems and is not effective then we go and create a new mechanism to deal with that issue. It’s the same question for the NGOs, where can you make the difference and where should you lobby? If the nation-states cannot deal with these things then who do you turn to?
Is this the West against the rest? It’s not exactly like that. There is actually a growing interest in how Europe is dealing with the human rights regime and how effectiveness is achieved in dealing with these issues. You have other regions coming here to study it. It is a question of how you can solve these issues peacefully and it is an increasingly attractive proposition.