Democratization and Human Rights in the Americas: Should the Jury Still be Out?

  • Laurence Whitehead


Much democratic theory is normative, and so naturally incorporates conceptions of human rights into its account of what constitutes a democracy. Equally, much of the emphasis in the literature on democratization and human rights falls upon the application of international norms.


Security Force Democratic Governance Global Civil Society Latin American Region Electoral Democracy 
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  1. 1.
    Ellen L. Lutz and Kathryn Sikkink, “The International Dimension of Democratization and Human Rights in Latin America,” in Manuel Antonio Garretón and Edward Newman (eds), Democracy in Latin America: (Re) Constructing Political Society (Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 2002), p. 279.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Tom Farer (ed.), Beyond Sovereignty: Collectively Defending Democracy in the Americas (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1997).Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Jon. C. Pevehouse, “Democracy from the Outside -In? International Organisations and Democratization,” International Organization 56 (3) (Summer, 2002), 543.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 7.
    For example, the 17 mainland Latin American republics have almost universally ratified all the six major international human rights instruments. By contrast, most Caribbean island states have refused to ratify at least one and sometimes several of these conventions, mainly the convention against torture and cruel and degrading punishment, since they wish to return to the death penalty. For full details, see Table R11 in H. Anheier, M. Glasius, and M. Kaldor (eds), Global Civil Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    For a comprehensive overview, see Peter Schmitz and Kathyn Sikkink, “International Human Rights,” in W. Carlsnaes, T. Risse and B. Simmons (eds), Handbook of International Relations (London: Sage, 2002).Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    According to the Global Internal Displaced Persons Project, Internally Displaced People: A Global Survey (London: Earthscan, 2nd edition 2002), p. 83: “By mid 2002, some 2.2 million persons were IDPs in the region [the Americas] — nearly four times the number of refugees. The large majority of these persons were found in Colombia, a country producing as many as 300,000 IDPs a year and considered one of the worst situations of internal displacement in the world.” Some of this rural displacement is due to violence, some to campaigns of land enclosure and clearance, and some to the effects of drug eradication. Whether the latter should be considered a human rights issue, given the frequent dependence of peasant survival strategies upon coca cultivation, is a further complicating question. Although Colombia accounted for the majority of IDPs in the region, the same report also included Guatemala, Mexico and Peru.Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    Charles Humana, World Human Rights Guide (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).Google Scholar
  8. 13.
    Human Rights Watch, World Report 1999 (New York), p. 385.Google Scholar
  9. 21.
    See Henry J. Steiner and Philip Alston, International Human Rights in Context: Law, Politics, Morals (Oxford University Press, 2nd edn, 2000), Chapter 10: “Regional Arrangements.”Google Scholar
  10. 23.
    But other EU efforts to promote democracy and human rights in adjacent areas where membership is not on offer have been far less successful. See Richard Youngs, The European Union and the Promotion of Democracy: Europe’s Mediterranean and Asian Policies (Oxford University Press, 2001).Google Scholar

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© Laurence Whitehead 2005

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  • Laurence Whitehead

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