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Promoting the adoption of international standards

No policy stands alone, not only internally – as all domestic policies are somehow interrelated – but also “externally”, especially in a globalised economy where the level of interdependency between States, not to speak of the global challenges, is blurring their respective spheres of competence. Against such backdrop, the alignment of domestic policies to international standards is a double-edged sword, as it can certainly improve their effectiveness and efficiency but usually does so from a top-down approach that limits the choice over the path of reforms.
This is why international norms need to be adopted or transposed not only through democratic institutions – in most countries Parliaments would be in charge of their ratification – but also through multi-stakeholder policy dialogues that assess the feasibility of the ensuing reforms within the policy context in which they are expected to be enforced. Failing to do so contributes to the feeling of powerlessness of many citizens against decisions that are being taken abroad and, more importantly, jeopardizes the effectiveness of any policy reform, however well-intentioned it may be, as it imposes ready-made solutions that seldom translate automatically into reality. Even worse, it can provide citizens with rights that can neither be protected nor enforced.
For instance, adopting a progressive law on violence against women in Paraguay that on paper meets almost all the international standards can turn out to be tricky when it comes to implementation and the State fails to deploy the necessary means to turn it into reality, as no funds at all had been allocated to disseminate the new law among potential victims or to sensitize and train judges, policemen and other officials on gender-based violence. On the other hand, the ratification by Mongolia of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008 provided the government with guidance on what actions to pursue, but it was only through inclusive and participatory policy dialogue that civil society organisations representing people with disabilities could adopt a more proactive role towards the definition and implementation of those support measures from which they had been, until then, just passive beneficiaries.