The role of soft law in human rights

This project traces the role of soft law across the human rights field building on a thorough analysis of relevant case studies.

The project builds on the assumption that soft law has come to fill a void in the absence of treaties, gathering strong support despite its non-binding nature. In many areas, soft law also seems to have become the battleground for interpretative struggles to both expand and delimit human rights protection. Even though soft-law is acknowledged to play an important role in attempting to define the human rights commitments of a variety of actors, the actual legal consistency of such commitments is difficult to pin down within a public international law framework. Hence the book project springs from a sense that the role performed by soft law is both more ambiguous and multi-faceted than customarily assumed.

The project will result in a book volume co-edited by Stephanie Lagoutte, Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen and John Cerone  titled Tracing the Roles of Soft Law in Human Rights (Oxford University Press, 2016). The volume conceptually explores the definition of soft law, its relationship to binding human rights law and its overall functions within the human rights regime. This will be exemplified and backed up by case studies examining the role of soft law in both established human rights regimes (its progressive and regressive effects, and the role that different actors play in the formulation process) and in emerging areas where there is no substantial codification of norms (relationship between soft and hard law, the role of different actors in laying down new soft law and the potential for eventual codification).

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