Assessing the Role of Parliaments in the Protection and Realisation of Human Rights

Stream: Panel 21 - Human Rights & Democracy: The Role of Courts, Parliaments and Electoral Systems in Enforcing Human Rights 
Date: Monday, 26 September 2016
Time: 2.00 pm – 3.30 pm


This paper is the result of a study assessing six parliaments (in Georgia, Macedonia, Serbia, Uganda, Ukraine and Tunisia), and their parliamentary human rights committees in particular, in terms of their capacity to protect and promote human rights. As one of the primary institutions of the state, parliaments share a responsibility to protect and realise human rights and to implement the state’s obligations. While parliaments’ role has historically been neglected, this is beginning to change. There is a growing concern about the gap between the international human rights machinery and its national implementation. Moreover, there is a desire to increase the democratic legitimacy of human rights standards, by having more debates in parliaments regarding a country’s human rights obligations. The parliamentary assessments were based on a questionnaire, which was prepared by the University of Oxford’s Parliaments, the Rule of Law and Human Rights project, drawing on a set of good practices previously identified in its research. Using the UK Parliament as a benchmark comparator, the study found that, while all parliaments and human rights committees performed well in some areas, none of the six assessed had fully adopted all the key practices necessary for effective functioning. Drawing on its specific country cases, the assessment also identified a number of common challenges. These include a lack of resources, lack of capacity to maximise effectiveness, and a need to demonstrate their value-added. Nevertheless, the study identified a number of opportunities for parliaments and human rights committees to make improvements for future progress.


Graeme Ramshaw (Presenter), Westminster Foundation for Democracy

Brian Chang, Independent Consultant