31 Int'l J. Legal Info. 312 (2003)
Making Human Rights Treaties Work: Global Information & (and) Human Rights in the 21st Century

handle is hein.journals/ijli31 and id is 374 raw text is: Making Human Rights Treaties Work:
Global Legal Information & Human Rights in the 21'
Century
OONA A. HATHAWAY*
The adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the
wake of the horrors of the Second World War established human rights as a
legitimate focus of international attention. In the half-century since, there have
arisen nearly 100 universal and regional human rights agreements governing
issues as diverse as discrimination against women, state-sponsored torture, and
fair trials. Yet, as we embark on the twenty-first century, accompanied by the
ongoing war on terrorism, there has been surprisingly little talk of these
agreements. I want to take this opportunity to consider why, despite their
ubiquity, human rights treaties have been largely ignored in current debates
over how to address the myriad problems in the Middle East, and to suggest
how we can make international agreements work more effectively to prevent
abuses of human dignity. °
International human rights treaties are premised on the assumption that
such treaties will have some effect on countries' practices. Indeed, this
premise lies at the heart of international law. International lawyers have long
assumed that, in the words of Louis Henkin, almost all nations observe almost
all principles of international law and almost all of their obligations almost all
of the time. ' It has become increasingly obvious, however, that the reluctance
of international lawyers to examine the efficacy of international law is
particularly problematic in the area of international himan rights. Unlike some
areas of international law, in the area of human rights, countries have little to
. Associate Professor of Law, Yale Law School, New Haven, Connecticut.
©Oona A. Hathaway 2003.
1 Louis Henkin, How Nations Behave, 42 (2nd ed., 1979).

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