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Do Constitutions Matter? The Relationship between De Jure and De Facto Human Rights Protection

27 settembre 2011
Ex Boccherini - Piazza S. Ponziano 6 (Conference Room )
The critique of constitutions as mere parchment barriers is as old as the practice of writing them down. Yet states put a good deal of energy into drafting constitutions and, in some cases, do so with the intention of limiting their subsequent behavior. At least some, then, appear to view constitutions as more than merely parchment. The purpose of this paper is to explore this possibility. We begin by assessing why certain rights provisions are included in constitutions. We then employ matching, using the covariates from the selection equations, to understand if (and when) constitutions “work” by assessing the effect of constitutionally entrenched human rights on the actual protection of human rights. The results suggest that entrenching a human right in the constitution can improve the odds that a country will observe that right, increasing de facto protection by as much as 20 percentage points. This finding suggests that the relationship between constitutional promises and actual practice is not as weak as has been generally assumed.
Melton, James Douglas