Georgetown Visiting Scholar Buhm-Suk Baek Researches the Role of Regional Human Rights Organizations

Buhm-Suk Baek is currently a visiting researcher at Georgetown University Law Center, 2011-2012, after completing his J.S.D. at Cornell in August, 2011. He can be contacted at The abstract for his recent paper on regional human rights organizations, RHRIS, NHRIS AND HUMAN RIGHTS NGOS, forthcoming publication this year in Volume 24 of the FLORIDA JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW, is posted after the jump.

Dr. Baek earned his LL.B. from Seoul National University in South Korea. He then obtained his M.A. in International Relations at Yonsei University, while working at Advocates Korea, a human rights NGO in Korea. His thesis “Definition of Crimes of Aggression in International Criminal Court” received the Korean Society of International Law Award. In the year 2007, Mr. Baek entered the J.S.D. program at the Cornell Law School just after obtaining his LL.M. from the same School with honors thesis “Economic Sanctions against Gross Human Rights Violations” under the supervision of Prof. Muna Ndulo. In the summer of 2009, he worked as a research fellow at the National Human Rights Commission of Korea.

His J.S.D. dissertation ‘Human Rights Institutions as Medium,’ examines the development of international human rights law to show whether and how national human rights institutions (NHRIs) can be a driving force for establishing regional human rights institutions (RHRIs) in the Asia-Pacific region, especially considering the critical fact that this region remains the only one which does not have any regional human rights mechanisms comparable to other regions.


This paper reviews the characteristics of human rights NGOs and their evolving role within the existing international and regional human rights mechanisms, and further, in Asia, the way in which they have worked together for better human rights practices and the establishment of regional human rights institutions (RHRIs) in this region. It also examines the role of human rights NGOs in strengthening human rights protection systems at the national level, especially in cooperation with national human rights institutions (NHRIs).

My broad argument is that not only have they contributed to strengthening the international human rights system, but have also been key partners of regional bodies to effectively implement international norms at the regional level. Human rights NGOs are increasingly becoming regional for a better protection and promotion of human rights issues of common concern in the region, and they actively cooperate with other NGOs across national borders.  All three existing regional human rights systems in Europe, the Americas, and Africa also show how human rights NGOs can interact and effectively address their concerns and problems under their regional framework. In Asia, their initiatives, input, and efforts have become the strong foundation for the establishment of RHRIs in the region.

Further, at the national level, especially in relation to the cooperation with NHRIs, role of human rights NGOs is vital for the effectiveness of NHRIs and ultimately can lead to strengthening the national system for the protection and promotion of human rights. In other words, NHRIs’ effectiveness for better human rights practices in each individual state depends mainly on how they can properly interact with the human rights NGOs and at the same time, on the level of interaction with civil society. In this paper, the case study of seven selected countries in Asia was provided to review the process of establishing NHRIs, both successful and unsuccessful ones, and more specifically, how human rights NGOs have worked together with NHRIs and their governments for the protection and promotion of human rights.


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