Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

An Appraisal of Institutions of Global Governance: The Case of the African Human Rights System

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

An Appraisal of Institutions of Global Governance: The Case of the African Human Rights System

Article excerpt


In an anarchic global system where there is an absence of a central authority to govern states behavior, (2) within the framework of structural realism, institutions of global governance play a very important role by attempting to fill this gap through the development and enforcement of international norms among states. While admitting that such global governance institutions lack sovereignty to effectively enforce rules, they do wield some forms of power derived from the very essence of such institutions, their resources and those powers conceded to them by states who are party to those global institutions. Moreover, within the understanding of pooled sovereignty, countries that are parties to these global governance institutions recognize the importance of allowing such institutions to perform certain functions on their behalf (Kegley and Blanton 2010).

Institutions such as the United Nations, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization, the European and African Unions among others have been able to apply their mandate and powers to make positive impacts in addressing poverty reduction in the global south and the global protection of human rights. For instance, the IMF and the World Bank, through their structural adjustment programs of the 1980s and 1990s came to the rescue of many economies from collapsing in the global south. (3) The United Nations has been leading the global crusade for the protection of universal human rights since 1948, advancing from the protection of civil and political rights to its current focus on non-state actors' responsibility to protect human rights. In spite of these endeavors, there have been challenges of enforcement of decisions and the lack of adequate resources.

In Africa, the defunct Organization of Africa Unity (OAU) as well as its predecessor, the African Union, has taken steps to protect human rights in the post-independence era. (4) (5) The African Union's human rights system which finds expression mainly in the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights have made remarkable efforts aimed at protecting human rights through the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and its protocols, and the respective supervisory mechanisms they have established. However, its ability to be effective has been challenged. This paper examines the effectiveness of the African human rights system within the context of global system changes and how such changes can be studied in international studies using Oran Young's framework of effectiveness of global governance institutions.

This paper proceeds in three main sections. Beyond this introduction, the paper presents the Young framework of the effectiveness of international institutions, which sets out the specific questions this paper answers. Next it presents the institutions and structures that make up the African human rights system while examining the effectiveness of the African human rights system based on that framework. In the final section, it considers the determinants of effectiveness of international institutions in Africa and presents a discussion before it concludes.

The Young Framework of the Effectiveness of International Institutions

Young presents his framework in an attempt to assess the role of international regimes in influencing individual and collective behavior of states at the international level. In short, the framework is developed to determine whether institutions matter in international relations. While suggesting a general level definition of effectiveness as a measure of the role of social institutions in shaping behavior in international society, Young holds that an institution is effective "to the extent that its operations impel actors to behave differently than they would if the institution did not exist or if some other institutional arrangements were put in its place. …

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