International organizations and the protection of fundamental rights of individuals


Subject Matter

International organizations, particularly after the Cold War, intervene increasingly into intra-societal processes and enter into direct authority relationships with individuals. Interventions for the purpose of building political institutions in societies emerging from violent conflicts are among the most obvious examples of this trend. In the course of such development, international organizations have sometimes violated the human rights of individuals that were affected by their policies. Among the most evident and pernicious of such violations are the cases of sexual exploitation in the context of UN and NATO peacekeeping operations. UN and EU sanctions regimes have also frequently been associated with human rights violations. Further, it is argued that the IMF and World Bank’s structural adjustment programs have also entailed human rights violations. Direct authority relationships between international organizations and individuals have simultaneously given rise to international organizations being directly approached with normative demands to protect the fundamental rights of individuals. This project will investigate when it is that international organizations accept such demands and consequently introduce provisions that ensure the protection of human rights. More precisely, the project’s aim is to find out under what conditions international organizations respond to the criticism that one of their policies violates human rights by creating the necessary provisions to safeguard these rights. In doing so, we attempt to identify causal mechanisms and general conditions and to assess their relative weight. We also seek to determine whether reforms can be viewed as an indicator of the emergence of a new general norm. The project is intended to make a contribution to the research on the new modes of operation of international institutions in the era of globalization. Further, we hope to contribute to the advancement of research on the diffusion of norms, in general, and of human rights and the rule of law, in particular, by exploring the possibility of both vertical diffusion and horizontal diffusion on the international level.

Relationship to the research unit’s program

Legitimacy problems arising from the growing depth of interventions by international institutions into societies and the normative demands that have resulted from those problems and that confront these institutions are essential elements of their politicization (thesis 2 of the research unit's program).