National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and the Hazards of Being the Nexus between Global and Local: A Case Study of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) in the Maelstrom of Public Controversy
Author(s): Jonathan Liljeblad
National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), as set forth in the 1993 Paris Principles, are expected to be independent bodies that promote and monitor state implementation of international human rights standards. In such a role, an individual NHRI bridges the gap between “international human rights obligations and actual enjoyment of human rights on the ground” and thereby operates as a nexus between a global human rights system and local conditions. A location at the nexus has the potential to offer opportunities to exercise powers as an intermediary on behalf of human rights in terms of enabling engagement between global and local levels. The analysis, however, draws upon the experiences of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) to assert that there are limits for institutions at the nexus between global and local. Using a public controversy from 2016 that questioned the legitimacy of the MNHRC and threatened its existence as an NHRI, the analysis seeks to improve understanding of the risks facing NHRIs and add insight into the ways contextual politics challenge expectations for NHRIs to operate as human rights intermediaries.