Welcome! This site explores the history of international human rights policy and the standard-setting work of human rights advocacy organizations. We have divided the website into several sections, and by sharing our thoughts about organization of the site, we hope you will be able to use it more effectively (and efficiently).
Over the past five decades, the international human rights policy machinery has expanded significantly, with the conclusion of numerous legal instruments and the development of new international mechanisms to enhance implementation. As we see it, human rights organizations have been engaged in several quasi-separate pieces of the related policy work. Human rights organizations:
- have brought attention to emerging human rights problems;
- they expanded thinking about the range of actors to whom human standards apply;
- they invented the methodology of human rights reporting and continue to provide essential information; and
- they have engaged with UN processes to develop standards and enhance implementation.
Each of these contributions is important in its own right, and together they point up the crucial role of the human rights movement in international policy dynamics. To bring each of the separate pieces into focus without losing sight of the whole, we have organized the site into five subject areas characterizing the standard-setting work of the international human rights movement, each represented on the site landing page as a puzzle piece.
- Recognizing New Human Rights Problems
- Establishing Accountability for Human Rights Abuse
- Methods of Research and Advocacy
- Making International Human Rights Policy Decisions
- The Future Development of Human Rights
Within each subject area, visitors will find several pages dedicated to the elaboration of these topics, including specific case examples. Each case opens with a narrative that introduces the topic, explains the historical context and relevant human rights standards, and elaborates the contemporary relevance. Each case closes with a list of resources that guide the visitor to the rich body of information available on that topic including: treaties and human rights instruments, government and international organization reports, academic scholarship, advocacy groups and training tools, and multimedia sources including films.
We expect this site will be useful for instructors, students, practitioners and researchers of human rights and offer suggestions for how users might benefit from the site. In addition to the brief summary information below, further suggestions for using the site can be accessed through tabs on the top banner of the website or by clicking on the links below.
Instructors: We conceptualize this site as an on-line text book that introduces students to the development of human rights policy and the key actors involved in the dynamic and ever-evolving international policy process. The site combines the personal reflections of human rights practitioners about the internal decision-making processes of NGOs with academic scholarship and government documents and reports on several substantive areas of international human rights policy. Each subject page offers instructors a list of valuable resources that they may wish to integrate into their teaching on the topic.
Students: For students, we believe that this site is a great place to learn more about human rights topics that interest you. The content on the following pages provide important historical context – the back story about how human rights policy developed in these areas of interest. We encourage you to spend time examining the substantive content of the site, and to make it easier for you to venture further, we have identified key scholarship and documents that will direct you to the core conceptual debates in the field of human rights. These resources will help you better understand human rights concepts and how they are being worked on in various ways by human rights advocacy groups.
Advocates and Practitioners: We hope this site records and preserves some of the history of the international human rights movement in a way that allows a new generation of practitioners to carry the work forward by gaining insights in the evolution of the norms, past practices, and the rationale and decision-making processes of practitioners whose early actions established the international human rights movement. We hope that the site becomes a place where scholars and practitioners can interact and learn more about the ways that their work can complement each other.
Researchers: The field of International Relations continues to be largely state-centric even though there is an increasing willingness in IR to examine the role of NGOs. Too often, however, there remains a tendency to attribute decisive action to states and to not see or adequately explore the role of NGOs in the policy process. Human rights is an area in which NGOs have been incredibly active over the past 50 years but much of their work was done behind the scenes and much of the decision-making behind closed doors. Because their contributions to the development of human rights policy is not obvious or always apparent, there is a risk that analysis will overlook or minimize those contributions. We hope that this site will go some way toward correcting for that omission.
In addition, we invite you to download the complete conference proceedings, Human Rights: From Practice to Policy, which form the basis upon which this website was built.