Human Rights and the Legitimacy…

[Los derechos humanos y la legitimidad de las instituciones de gobernanza global]

Cristina Lafont
Northwestern University
1860 Campus Drive, Crowe 1-141, Evanston, Illinois 60208, Estados Unidos


In a recent article Allan Buchanan and Robert Keohane defend the view that one of the necessary conditions for the legitimacy of global governance institutions such as the WTO and the IMF is that they respect basic human rights. I certainly agree that setting the minimal threshold of moral acceptability any lower would be entirely unreasonable. But, unfortunately, the view that global governance institutions have human rights obligations is far from uncontroversial. These institutions themselves go to great lengths to deny such a claim. Their official stance finds strong normative support in the state-centric conception of human rights that dominates both normative debates about human rights and current human rights practice. In this article I challenge some of the normative assumptions behind the state-centric conception in order to defend a pluralist conception that ascribes human rights obligations not only to states but also to non-state actors such as global governance institutions. After briefly analyzing some of the proposals currently under discussion about how to legally entrench the obligation to respect human rights in those institutions, I will defend the feasibility of those proposals against the objection that their implementation is incompatible with the current state-system and thus it would require the creation of a world state.

Key words: Global governance institutions, Human rights, Human rights due diligence, Legitimacy, State-centric conception of human rights

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