Ethics & International Affairs Volume 13 (1999): Articles: Human Rights NGOs: The Power of Persuasion [Abstract]

Dec 4, 1999

At the end of World War II, the phrase "human rights" was virtually unknown, whether in the media, in standard textbooks, or as a guideline for state conduct in the emerging international community. It was nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that made the phrase a core element of the United Nations Charter in 1944, even as they pressed for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted three years later. This was but the beginning of a historic effort to make the Declaration a fundamental standard for measuring progress in civilized society. If the principal motivation was the prevention of another Holocaust, NGOs would fulfill the indispensable function, projected by Eleanor Roosevelt, of serving as the "curious grapevine" that would enlighten everyone about their rights and channel information about human rights violations to the world community.

This essay is about the "curious grapevine," an extraordinary tale of how NGOs, through their persuasion, have made human rights a major item in international discourse in the media, state chancellories, and international institutions. NGOs have played the leading role in the creation of international standards and in establishing legally binding treaties incorporating these standards. They are central to the process of adopting implementing organs to these treaties and in providing the essential documentation and briefings to make these organs work.

To read or purchase the full text of this article, click here.

You may also like

Eleanor Roosevelt holding a poster of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Lake Success, NY, November, 1949. <br>CREDIT: <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Declaration_of_Human_Rights#/media/File:Eleanor_Roosevelt_UDHR.jpg">Wikimedia</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en">(CC)</a>

DEC 2, 2020 Podcast

The United Nations at 75: Looking Back to Look Forward, Episode 4, with Bertrand Ramcharan

In the fourth and final installment of "The United Nations at 75: Looking Back to Looking Forward," host Margaret P. Karns speaks with Bertrand Ramcharan, former ...

President Barack Obama chairs a UN Security Council meeting, September 2009, New York, NY. <br>CREDIT: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Barack_Obama_chairs_a_United_Nations_Security_Council_meeting.jpg">White House/Pete Souza/Public Domain</a>

OCT 7, 2020 Podcast

The United Nations at 75: Looking Back to Look Forward, Episode 1, with David M. Malone

In the first episode of this new podcast series marking the 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, host Margaret Karns, professor emerita ...

U.S. Army soldiers in Iraq, March 2008. CREDIT: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/soldiersmediacenter/2340862578">The U.S. Army</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">(CC)</a>

JAN 27, 2020 Podcast

Just War, Unjust Soldiers, & American Public Opinion, with Scott D. Sagan

Do soldiers fighting for a "just cause" have more rights than soldiers fighting on the other side? In this interview following up on an "Ethics & ...