An Overview of Regional Human Rights Systems

Regional human rights systems, consisting of regional instruments and mechanisms, play an important role in the promotion and protection of human rights. Regional human rights instruments (e.g. treaties, conventions, declarations) help to localise international human rights norms and standards, reflecting the particular human rights concerns of the region. Regional human rights mechanisms (e.g. commissions, special rapporteurs, courts) then help to implement these instruments on the ground.

The existence of an effective regional human rights system is of fundamental importance to the promotion and protection of human rights, as it:

  • Assists national governments with the implementation of their international human rights obligations; for example, assisting with the implementation of the recommendations of treaty bodies, special procedures and the Universal Periodic Review;
  • Provides people with more accessible mechanisms for the protection of their human rights, once national remedies have been exhausted;
  • Helps to raise peoples awareness of their human rights, placing them in a more localised context and reflecting their particular human rights concerns;
  • Provides regional input to the development of international human rights standards and the improvement of international human rights mechanisms;
  • Helps national governments to better address regional human rights concerns that cross national borders; for example, human rights concerns related to migration, transnational crime and environmental disasters.

Currently, the three most well established regional human rights systems exist in Africa, the Americas and Europe.