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Human rights NGOs are private associations that engage in the promotion and protection of human rights. Various NGOs around the globe have dedicated their efforts towards the protection of human rights and elimination of human rights abuses.
These NGOs have been on the forefront in monitoring the activities of governments and mounting pressure on the governments, forcing them to adhere to human rights tenets1. This paper will establish when and how human rights NGOs become most effective. Essentially, the NGOs intervene whenever there is a perceived violation of human right principles.
Human rights and NGOs
The nongovernmental organizations play a critical role in governance issues across the world. In the world today, there are numerous international human rights treaties which stipulate the obligations of states, and the rights of the citizens in these states and beyond2.
Despite this, the civil society has continued to play a fundamental role in helping the establishment of a strong and operational human rights system in various countries across the world. The NGOs engage in various activities including the collection of critical data and offering advisory services to victims of human rights abuses.
Also, the NGOs take it upon themselves to file complaints in regard to observed weaknesses in state agencies. At times, the NGOs may support legal cases that are brought before national, regional, and international conventions and courts3.
In the case of a national context, political tension is most likely to arise between the NGOs and the government. The assertions put forward by Peter R. Baehr on international NGOs also apply to the human rights NGOs at the national and regional levels.
He asserted that: “despite the abundance of non-governmental human rights organizations, little is actually known about their effectiveness or impact, except for the fact that they tend to rely on what is commonly known as the ‘mobilization of shame’”4.
Amnesty International (AI) has played a leading role in enhancing human rights across the world. AI conducts research and come up with an action plan aimed at preventing and eliminating human right abuses. It also demands for justice to victims of human rights abuses5. AI was formed in 1961 by individuals who wanted to oversee the implementation of the human rights across the world.
Since its formation, AI has been more interested in the suffering of people who have been killed, subjected to torture, and incarcerated due to political reasons.
In the recent past, AI has started focusing on the general human rights protection; this is achieved through legal redress and mounting of public pressure from the international community. Following the formation of AI, there have been notable improvements in cultivating norms and behavior that is in line with human right principles6.
When and how NGOs effectively executes their duties
NGOs are forced to swing into action when human rights are perceived to have been violated specifically due to political reasons. A good example is the case of Joelito Filartiga, whose 17 year old son was subjected to torture and eventually killed for political reasons in Paraguay7. The NGOs also intervene when there is need to educate the public and share information regarding what is happening on the ground in areas hit by conflicts.
B’Tselem is one of the NGOs that have been involved in this kind of work by letting the world know about what is happening in the Middle East conflict8. When technical analysis of the human rights violation is needed, NGOs play a critical role in explaining the history, details, and demographic analysis of the situation9.
The NGOs also get involved in matters of human rights when there is need to influence public policy. This can be achieved through lobbying and advocacy10.
There are certain aspects that make human rights organizations to become more effective. In this case, the human rights NGOs have to be accountable on how they run their affairs. Also, for the human rights NGOs to be effective, their officials must have well defined office terms. It has been observed that long and renewable terms for office bearers are the most appropriate.
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The office bearers should also be presented with sufficient remuneration. This guarantees integrity and independence of the human rights officials. Effectiveness of the human rights officials is also enhanced by the ability to avoid conflict of interest. In this case, the officials of the human rights NGOs have to solely dedicate themselves to serving the interests of the organization11.
These organizations also improve on their effectiveness when their officials are granted immunity from litigation that may arise from actions taken in their official capacity. The NGOs can also improve on their effectiveness when they cooperate with other organizations at the international level.
This reinforces their independence and effectiveness. It has also to be noted that financial independence, adequate resources and staffing enhance the effectiveness of the human rights NGOs12.
One of the fundamental roles played by human rights NGOs is monitoring human rights abuses. When individuals are subjected to unnecessary torture or even killed due to political reasons, the human rights NGOs step in to demand for justice and an end to the uncalled for sufferings.
The AI has been effective in this aspect as it has been engaged in demanding for an end to human rights violations mostly carried out by agents of the state13. The NGOs have also played the role of educating the public and sharing information related to human rights aspects. Such NGOs aim at providing the public with a basis from which an action can be taken and decisions made.
In this case, the people concerned are provided with information so that they cannot blame ignorance for their actions14. The NGOs also engage in technical analysis of the human rights violations. Addressing the violations of human rights “requires an assessment of how, how much and why human freedoms are curtailed or condemned”15.
In some cases, NGOs influence public policy through political lobbying and advocacy. This is achieved through campaigns of persuasion and exerting pressure on the government or private groups and corporations seen to be violating human rights16. The NGOs have also been engaged in building solidarity in an effort to enhance human rights across the world.
In this case, they advance sympathetic concerns for the causes and concerns of others in relation to human rights17. In the recent past, it has been noted that many people have been displaced from their homes due to armed conflicts. The NGOs have come to the rescue of these victims through the provision and facilitation of service and humanitarian relief18.
Lastly, through litigation, the NGOs have been able to advance the protection of individuals from human rights violations. All this has been applied by the NGOs to effectively achieve their objective of enhancing human rights.
It can be observed that the NGOs have played a significant role in enhancing human rights around the world. The NGOs often step in when human rights abuses and violations have been noted and the victims ignored. These NGOs engage in various activities and actions to effectively address the violation of human rights that is experienced in various states.
Baehr, Peter, R. Non-Governmental Human Rights Organizations in International Relations. Houndsmill: Pallgrave Macmillan, 2009.
Clark, Ann, Marie. Diplomacy of Conscience: Amnesty International in International Politics. 2001. Web.
Claude, Richard, Pierre and Burns, H. Weston. Human rights in the world community: issues and action. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.
International Council on Human Rights Policy. Assessing the Effectiveness of National Human Rights Institutions. 2005. Web.
Welch, Claude, E. ed. NGOs and Human Rights. Promise and Performance. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001.
1 Claude E. Welch, ed., NGOs and Human Rights. Promise and Performance. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001, p 54.
2 Peter R. Baehr, Non-Governmental Human Rights Organizations in International Relations, Houndsmill: Pallgrave Macmillan, 2009, p 120.
3 Claude E. Welch, ed., NGOs and Human Rights. Promise and Performance. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001, p 62.
4 Peter R. Baehr, Non-Governmental Human Rights Organizations in International Relations, Houndsmill: Pallgrave Macmillan, 2009, p 123.
5 Ann Marie Clark. Diplomacy of Conscience: Amnesty International in International Politics. 2001.
6 Ibid, para 2.
7 Richard Pierre Claude and Burns H Weston. Human rights in the world community: issues and action. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006, p 425.
8 Ibid, p 426.
9 Ibid, p 428.
10 Ibid, p 429.
11 International Council on Human Rights Policy. Assessing the Effectiveness of National Human Rights Institutions. 2005.
13 Richard Pierre Claude and Burns H Weston. Human rights in the world community: issues and action. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006, p 425.
14Ibid, p 427.
15 Richard Pierre Claude and Burns H Weston. Human rights in the world community: issues and action. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006, p 428.
16 Ibid, p 429.
17 Ibid, p 430.
18 Ibid, p 431.