UN Secretary-General Visits and Human Rights Diplomacy

Researchers have begun to investigate the effectiveness of a wide range of diplomatic tools used by various international and domestic actors in the field of human rights. Using new data on official state visits by the UN Secretary-General (UNSG), we investigate the conditions under which UN diplomacy improves human rights. We predict that UNSG visits can improve human rights conditions in the visited states for two reasons. First, news and discussions around UNSG visits serve as focal points for the media and civil society’s efforts to improve human rights. Second, recognition and endorsement of local civil society organizations and activists by the UNSG can raise the visibility and status of these organizations, and thus empower their organizational capacity. Our empirical analysis lends strong support to the hypothesis that, controlling for the factors associated with the UNSG’s visits, these visits substantially improve human rights conditions in the visited countries.