Purdue University Graduate School
Gomez Sierra Ana C. Dissertation final.pdf (739.03 kB)

The Practical Problem of Implementation of Human Rights Norms: An Analysis Through the Explanatory Role of Social Contracts

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posted on 2024-04-27, 00:01 authored by Ana Carolina Gomez SierraAna Carolina Gomez Sierra

I investigate how we can make the content of international instruments on human rights, such as covenants and treaties, frequently applicable in all contexts. Further, I argue that the problem of widespread implementation of human rights norms is two-fold insofar as it concerns (i) recognition of their content, which is often difficult due to cultural or political disputes, and/or (ii) the enforcement of related policies through administrative institutions. After laying out the scope of the project, I propose to use the causal and explanatory properties of social contract theory to elaborate on the relationship between informal (cultural) and formal (legal) norms of human rights. Indeed, I maintain an interpretation of this theory that combines its justificatory powers, like traditional contractarians, and its explanatory role, like contemporary contractarians have done, and I suggest that there is a third, namely, the causal role. From that conceptual framework, I show a successful case of implementation of human rights norms in Colombia, which was one of the countries participants of the Latin American wave of constitutionalism in the 1980s and 1990s. This intense period of constitutional changes in the region allowed for an openness towards international human rights norms in dialogue with national experiences and customs. The relevance of this case study is that it will help me identify lessons and strategies potentially applicable on a global scale. Indeed, I show how a reconsideration of the national political pact contained in political constitutions may be a successful strategy to strengthen the incorporation of human rights norms into the legal domestic sphere. The last part of the dissertation project surveys one possible external solution for the problem of implementation: military humanitarian interventions. I conclude that military interventions do not fit within the model of social contract theory and the justification of its employment in difficult cases may proceed only with certain conditions extracted from the contract.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Philosophy

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Leonard Harris

Additional Committee Member 2

William L. McBride

Additional Committee Member 3

Taylor T. Davis

Additional Committee Member 4

Michael Jacovides

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