The new Notre Dame Reparations Design and Compliance Lab (NDRL) convened more than 30 scholars, policymakers, and practitioners from leading institutions in international human rights law compliance last month for its inaugural workshop.

One of three Kellogg Institute Policy and Practice Research Labs, the NDRL develops and tests methodologies to assess state compliance with reparative orders of international adjudication bodies, such as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the World Bank Inspection Panel. Led by Kellogg Faculty Fellows Aníbal Pérez-Liñán and Diane Desierto, the NDRL works to help tribunals improve the design of reparative measures in cases involving human rights.

The May 25 virtual workshop laid the foundation for the lab’s long-term vision to reconceptualize the design of reparative orders.

“It was a significant gathering of international tribunals, academics, and practitioners who are focused on human rights-based reparative measures ensuing from the legal responsibility of states and non-state entities such as international organizations and the private sector,” Desierto said. 

Participating institutions included the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the World Bank Inspection Panel.

Scholars and practitioners discussed key challenges faced by international courts, tribunals, and other adjudication bodies in the design of reparative measures and in efforts to supervise compliance.

Imrana Jalal, chair of the World Bank Inspection Panel, spoke about limitations on evaluating the effectiveness of reparations, including that, up until a few months ago, the Inspection Panel lacked authorization to return to the field to verify whether reparations were being implemented.

Fernanda Dos Anjos, chief of staff for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, called the workshop a “valuable opportunity to visualize the impact and repercussions of the work of the Inter-American human rights system.”

Kellogg launched the Policy and Practice Research Labs last year to support high-impact, high-yield research intended to have a tangible influence on policies and practices affecting its core research areas of democracy and human development. The labs intentionally bridge the worlds of research and policy while maintaining a focus on rigorous scholarly inquiry.

Kellogg Institute Director Paolo Carozza said the NDRL’s research gets at the heart of international law and will ultimately improve compliance with and implementation of international legal norms on human rights.

“There is a certain fatigue and cynicism that has come from the multiplication of human rights institutions and instruments, and a question of what difference they make in practice,” he said. “Those of us in the field know that they do make a difference, and this lab focuses centrally on the question of impact."

The NDRL is jointly funded by Kellogg and the Klau Center for Civil and Human Rights.

Pérez-Liñán said the workshop was critical for the NDRL because it established a network of scholars and practitioners who will contribute to the lab’s work. The meeting is expected to lead to a number of collaborations with academic institutions in the United States, Canada, Latin America, and Europe, and with several international adjudication bodies.

Desierto added, “These collaborations will meaningfully advance both the theoretical and the policy impacts of the NDRL on the work of international tribunals in current and future human rights cases around the world.”

In the coming months, Pérez-Liñán and Desierto will work with external partners to refine key lines of research inspired by the workshop and to gather and analyze the data with the NDRL graduate student research team. They are planning a conference next year to discuss their first set of findings.

Workshop: Rethinking Compliance and Reparations in International Law;  Monday, May 25, 2020