Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



"Naming and shaming," the process of exposing, publicizing, and condemning human rights abuses, is one of the most important and common strategies used by human rights advocates. In an international political system where power is typically defined in terms of military strength and market size, advocacy groups draw on a mixture of moral and legal means to pressure governments to improve their human rights behavior. In general, the mere act of naming and shaming can promote human rights norms by reinforcing the shared understanding that some types of government conduct are beyond the pale.'

Naming and shaming may also work more specifically through a dynamic of "rhetorical entrapment." Moral and legal censure pressure the targeted government to respond to criticisms about its conduct either by expressing public support for human rights norms or by signing human rights treaties. Over time, advocacy groups use such instrumental concessions to press the targeted government further to stop its abusive practices. Words that initially appear to be cheap gestures can, with the passing of time, have powerful effects.