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Soft law increasingly shapes and impacts the content of international law in multiple ways, from being a first step in a norm-making process to providing detailed rules and technical standards required for the interpretation and the implementation of treaties. This is especially true in the area of human rights. While relatively few human rights treaties have been adopted at the UN level in the last two decades, the number of declarations, resolutions, conclusions, and principles has grown significantly. In some areas, soft law has come to fill a void in the absence of treaty law, exerting a degree of normative force exceeding its non-binding character. In others areas, soft law has become a battleground for interpretative struggles to expand and limit human rights protection in the context of existing regimes. Despite these developments, little attention has been paid to soft law within human rights legal scholarship. Building on a thorough analysis of relevant case studies, this volume systematically explores the roles of soft law in both established and emerging human rights regimes.
The book argues that a better understanding of how soft law shapes and affects different branches of international human rights law not only provides a more dynamic picture of the current state of international human rights, but also helps to unsettle and critically question certain political and doctrinal beliefs. Following introductory chapters that lay out the general conceptual framework, the book is divided in two parts. The first part focuses on cases that examine the role of soft law within human rights regimes where there are established hard law standards, its progressive and regressive effects, and the role that different actors play in the incubation process. The second part focuses on the role of soft law in emerging areas of international law where there is no substantial treaty codification of norms. These chapters examine the relationship between soft and hard law, the role of different actors in formulating new soft law, and the potential for eventual codification.