International Human Rights and Authoritarian Rule in Chile

By Darren G. Hawkins | Go to book overview

Introduction

Though once confined largely to the domestic realm, during the past thirty years the politics of human rights have become increasingly internationalized and transnationalized. 1 Since the early 1970s, states have signed and ratified an ever-growing number of human rights conventions, more carefully monitored a variety of abuses, and even intermittently penalized some of the worst violators. Intergovernmental organizations have adopted new methods of investigation and reporting and have expanded the array of abuses they track. Nongovernmental organizations dedicated to human rights have experienced explosive growth and have mobilized campaigns on behalf of the oppressed all over the world. As a result, domestic groups and individuals suffering repression now routinely seek political, moral, and financial support from international patrons and provide the international community with crucial information on the nature of repression.

These activities were not always commonplace, and, in fact, many were quite unthinkable before the 1970s. Progress, in the sense that more human rights norms exist and that more global actors promote those norms, seems undeniable. 2 Yet skeptics rightly ask whether it all matters. Do authoritarian governments respond positively to human rights pressures, or do they simply harden their stance and withdraw further into their repressive darkness? Do they care if they are condemned and sanctioned? Do all authoritarian governments respond in similar ways? Under what conditions do they respond, and how and why do they respond?

These questions get to the heart of theoretical debates in international relations about the relative importance of norms in shaping state behavior, the role of nonstate actors in world politics, and the origins of state preferences. If the accepted norms are essentially meaningless unless backed up by state power, then we should rarely expect authoritarian governments to respond to human rights pressures in a positive way. 3 There are few cases, save the celebrated ones like Kosovo, where important states have exerted substantial power to promote human rights in other countries. More often, human rights pressures center on

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