This chapter explores the types of effects of decisions by the Inter-American Commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. It establishes a difference between “instrumental” and “constructivist” views regarding these effects. Second, the chapter outlines a research agenda regarding the indirect effect of Inter-American decisions and the “institutional empowerment” of state agencies that face difficulties in promoting human rights policies, particularly because of resistance within the state itself. Institutional empowerment involves the use of inter-American decisions by institutions of the state to advance human rights, generally in the context of a struggle with other public institutions or even within the same branch of government. The analysis of some of the successes and failures of these forms of “institutional empowerment” could help us to understand why the effects of the inter-American system in some countries are more direct and palpable, while in others they are more indirect and symbolic.
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