National Human Rights Institutions and Post-Conflict Settings: An Emerging Research Agenda?

Citation: Molloy, S. (2020) ‘National Human Rights Institutions and Post-Conflict Settings: An Emerging Research Agenda?’, Journal of Human Rights Practice, Volume 12, Issue 3, November 2020, Pages 592–619,

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Abstract: The potential contributions that National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) can make in post-conflict settings has drawn increased attention from academics and practitioners alike. For some, NHRIs can assume positive roles assisting not only in the protection and promotion of human rights but also in peacebuilding and transitional justice processes. Conversely, scholars identify a spectrum of potential obstacles that may hinder the translation of this potential into practice. Others assess that NHRIs can even hamper efforts to transition from conflict to peace. Existing literature identifies a number of factors that determine the contributions that NHRIs can make in conflict-affected settings. These include the institutional design of an NHRI, the degree of autonomy from the government, and the level of expertise needed to navigate the post-conflict landscape. This article considers a number of mechanisms and avenues available that could help NHRIs to navigate post-conflict transitions. Specifically, the article examines the potential impact of peace agreements that include provisions on NHRIs; post-conflict guidelines developed for NHRIs operating in conflict-affected settings; and various accountability-based mechanisms that monitor NHRIs and post-conflict governments on an ongoing basis. After considering how these options could support the positive contributions that NHRIs make to peace, the article will argue that more questions than answers arise. By identifying these uncertainties, however, the discussion helps illuminate important gaps in the literature, pointing to the need for a more comprehensive and integrated research agenda on NHRIs in post-conflict contexts.