Waylaid Dialectic

June 4, 2013

Do Amnesty International Campaigns Work?

Filed under: Human Rights — terence @ 8:27 am
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I’ve been a member (if that’s what my donations made me) of Amnesty International in the past and will likely rejoin once I have an income again. I support their view of a world where Human Rights are respected. I have always wondered though whether their campaigning on behalf of political prisoners in repressive regimes ever made much of a difference. Not because I think anything bad of Amnesty but success in this is a very hard ask.

Some suggestive evidence from the latest British Journal of Political Science. (Although, caveat lector, I haven’t read the article yet):

When Is the Pen Truly Mighty? Regime Type and the Efficacy of Naming and Shaming in Curbing Human Rights Abuses
Cullen S. Hendrix and Wendy H. Wong July 2013
British Journal of Political Science, ,Volume43, Issue03, July 2013 pp 651-672
http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0007123412000488

Does naming and shaming states affect respect for human rights in those states? This article argues that incentives to change repressive behaviour when facing international condemnation vary across regime types. In democracies and hybrid regimes – which combine democratic and authoritarian elements – opposition parties and relatively free presses paradoxically make rulers less likely to change behaviour when facing international criticism. In contrast, autocracies, which lack these domestic sources of information on abuses, are more sensitive to international shaming. Using data on naming and shaming taken from Western press reports and Amnesty International, the authors demonstrate that naming and shaming is associated with improved human rights outcomes in autocracies, but with either no effect or a worsening of outcomes in democracies and hybrid regimes.

[ungated version here]

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