Implementation of Women’s Rights

One of my major lines of inquiry concerns the implementation of women’s rights recommendations and the intersection between the international institutions that produce recommendations regarding women’s rights and domestic compliance and implementation datasets. This research, which is in partnership with Jillienne Haglund (University of Kentucky) and supported by the National Science Foundation, has yielded two key datasets on international women’s rights recommendations and compliance with them, as well a a set of academic articles, both in print and in progress.

National Science Foundation Funding

Award Title: Collaborative Research: Examining Compliance with Rights Regimes

Award Number: 1823771

Co-PIs: Courtney Hillebrecht (University of Nebraska-Lincoln) and Jillienne Haglund (University of Kentucky)

Abstract: The protection of human rights, including women’s rights, is a cornerstone of economic development, social progress, and the promotion of peace around the globe. While numerous international institutions seek to protect women’s rights, it remains unclear if, when, and how these institutions can effectively safeguard women?s rights. Understanding the processes by which political leaders and citizens mobilize around international women’s rights laws and institutions is critical for improving the efficacy of these institutions. Accordingly, this project will focus on state compliance with international human rights rulings and recommendations on women’s rights issues.

This project will examine the rulings and recommendations of the European Court of Human Rights, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and the UN Universal Periodic Review that are handed down to European states on issues of women’s rights. As well, the research will draw on interviews and case studies in Denmark, The Netherlands, Norway, and Spain, each of which has strong democratic institutions but varying levels of compliance with international women’s rights institutions’ recommendations. The project will create and disseminate a new dataset on women’s rights recommendations, the Women’s Rights Recommendation Digital Database, which will be used for a battery of statistical tests to identify the factors that affect compliance with international women?s rights recommendations. The database, statistical analyses, interviews, and case studies will provide insight into the macro-level factors that impact the effectiveness of women’s rights institutions and the processes behind compliance with international women’s rights recommendations.

Published Research

Overlapping International Human Rights Institutions: Introducing the Women’s Rights Recommendations Digital Database (WR2D2).

Abstract: With the proliferation of the international human rights regime, states confront a dense set of institutional commitments. Our knowledge of the influence of these commitments is limited for two reasons. First, scholars largely focus on the effect of treaty ratification on states’ human rights behavior, but states engage with these institutions after ratification via regional human rights court rulings and UN recommendations. Second, scholars often examine these institutions in isolation. The institutions do not operate in isolation, however, nor do states necessarily consider the requests they receive from these institutions independently. In this article, we introduce the Women’s Rights Recommendations Digital Database (WR2D2), which maps the various recommendations international women’s rights institutions make on European states. We begin by discussing the importance of recommendations from international institutions and their relationship with commitment and compliance. We then describe the data collection effort, including two dimensions on which recommendations made to European states vary – precision and action. Next, we report descriptive statistics from the dataset, including regional and temporal trends. We conclude with a discussion of the multifaceted research agenda that this new dataset can facilitate.

Suggested Citation: Jillienne Haglund and Courtney Hillebrecht.  2020. “Overlapping International Human Rights Institutions: Introducing the Women’s Rights Recommendations Digital Database (WR2D2).”  Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 47 (5): 648-657

Research in Progress

International Human Rights Recommendations at Home: Introducing the Women’s Rights Compliance Database (WRCD)

Abstract: The legalization of international human rights has led to an explosion in the number of recommendations states receive each year regarding their domestic human rights practices.  How do states respond to these recommendations, some of which may ask them to engage in significant domestic human rights reform?  In this article, we introduce the Women’s Rights Compliance Database (WRCD), which allows scholars to answer this and a number of related questions.  The WRCD provides compliance data on 2,550 recommendations across three institutions: CEDAW, the UPR, and the European Court of Human Rights.  This article introduces the conceptual and empirical foundations of the WRCD and provides descriptive statistics of the data.  Then, we situate the WRCD within the larger body of compliance data and illustrate how it not only fills a critical gap in the human rights compliance data landscape but also facilitates a robust future research agenda. 

Suggested Citation: Jillienne Haglund, Courtney Hillebrecht and Hannah Read, “International Human Rights Recommendations at Home: Introducing the Women’s Rights Compliance Database.”  Working Paper. 2021.

Moving the Needle: Recommendation Precision and Compliance with Women’s Rights Recommendations

Abstract: International human rights institutions impose obligations on their member states that extend long past the ratification stage.  Each year, states receive tens, or even hundreds, of recommendations and rulings from international human rights bodies. These recommendations and rulings demand that states change their human policies and practices, hold perpetrators to account and pay reparations to victims.  While recent scholarship has emphasized the important role of domestic institutions and civil society actors in facilitating compliance with these recommendations and rulings, comparatively little research has asked how the quality of the recommendations themselves affects compliance outcomes.  Using two novel datasets—the Women’s’ Rights Recommendation Digital Database (WR2D2) and the Women’s Rights Compliance Database (WRCD)—this paper sets out to understand the nexus between recommendation quality and compliance.  Our research suggests that highly precise recommendations move the needle away from inaction on international human rights institutions’ rulings and recommendations but makes full compliance more difficult.  In unpacking the relationship between recommendation quality and compliance, this paper advances the existing literature on the dynamics of compliance and places some of the responsibility for compliance on the international human rights institutions themselves. 

Suggested Citation: Jillienne Haglund and Courtney Hillebrecht, “Moving the Needle:  Recommendation Precision and Compliance with Women’s Rights Recommendations.” Working Paper. 2021.