Dissertation Abstracts

Networks of the UN Human Rights Council in Prevention of Human Rights Violations

Author: Anatoly Boyashov, anatoly.boyashov@coleurope.eu
Department: Faculty of Sociology
University: Bielefeld University, Germany
Supervisor: Alexandra Kaasch
Year of completion: 2020
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Network analysis , United Nations , Human Rights , Prevention
Areas of Research: Law , Political Sociology , Organization


How do actors and relevant stakeholders sustain complex networks in international organizations? Depending on the methodological point of view, a look at this question may indicate the formation of coalitions, negotiation methods, or legal instruments in international law. The puzzle of the study is that the consequences of these actions are complex due to the great complexity of international organizations: One ‘small’ action by an actor causes a dynamic and non-linear adaptation of all actors and stakeholders, including the international organization itself. This perspective is reminiscent of a chess game: The position game is determined by pieces with ‘weak’ starting power. Lost in the opening, a pawn may decide on the results. The key starting point is that not only does a pawn determine the result of a game, but also a pawn's relation to the positions of other pieces on both sides. The context in international organizations is much more complicated than in the chess game. Especially in the case of the world's only universal organization such as the United Nations. The United Nations includes the activities of developed and developing states with all material capacities, the UN provides space for international, regional and local non-governmental organizations, the UN has even managed to involve private enterprises in the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals. Relatively ‘small’ changes in the mandates of UN bodies may lead to general structural reforms within the organization, as well as further changes in the linkages between actors and stakeholders. Given that the subsystems of world society are now largely reinforced by the UN, gradual reforms within the organization could lead to further differentiation of world politics. The empirical evaluation of the thesis focuses on networks that have emerged in the course of agenda-setting and operationalization of the prevention mandate of the UN Human Rights Council. This mandate is provided in the Council's founding documents but has no specific instruments or mechanisms. While there was a consensus during the agenda-setting phase in 2010-2011 that “prevention costs less than cure”, the implementation phase in 2018-2019 reflected divergent views on prevention tools. Actors and relevant stakeholders in the Council proposed various mechanisms ranging from strengthening existing Council mechanisms to creating new ones or replacing the mandates of the main UN bodies. While consensus was not reached, the operationalization of the UN HRC's prevention mandate triggered further adaptation of the complexity of actors and stakeholders at the structural level. How would the UN system adapt to any of these proposals? What would be the reverse effect on networks of actors and stakeholders? To move inductively in this direction, the thesis develops a research question within the framework of the thematic study of the prevention mandate of the UN Human Rights Council: How do actors promote human rights at the UN Human Rights Council? The network perspective, together with social network analysis, identify deep structural models that apply to other international organizations.