The research project ‘Strengthening the International Human Rights System: Rights, Regulation and Ritualism’ is funded by an ARC Laureate Fellowship and awarded to Hilary Charlesworth. The project will run until 2015. The aim of Laureate Fellowships is to support research excellence and to develop a new generation of researchers, thus building Australia’s international competitive research capacity. 

This project focuses on a problem endemic to the international human rights system: why are international human rights standards widely accepted in theory but so hard to implement in practice?

Although the international community has created a complex and sophisticated system of human rights standards, these principles are regularly sidelined or ignored by countries that have accepted them. The project draws on regulatory scholarship to analyse how states respond to human rights principles, focusing particularly on the notion of ritualism. The concept of regulatory ritualism means formal participation in a system of regulation while losing sight of its substantive goals. The project documents techniques of ritualism employed in the international human rights system and explores their relationship to the weaknesses and failures of the system. It identifies ways of resisting forms of human rights ritualism that undermine human rights commitments. The major intellectual aims of the project are to:

  • identify and analyse the ways that regulatory ritualism operates in the international human rights system through a series of case studies; and
  • develop new theoretical models to improve the implementation of international human rights principles.

The project’s strategic aims are to:

  • support and train a new generation of international human rights scholars;
  • build Australian capacity in analysis of international human rights practices; and
  • create new research linkages with international human rights organisations, particularly the United Nations.