In international human rights law,states are considered main actors and were considered the sole actor for manyyears before the World War II. But atthe same time, civil society was inalienable part of the promotion andprotection of rights of individuals far before adoption of the UniversalDeclaration of Human Rights in 1947. Civil society movement for the abolitionof the slavery can be a good example of pre-human rights era civil societymovement and its impact on political and legal change. Following the beginningof 20th century, structure of the global political and legalrelations started changing rapidly. After World War II, role of the non-stateactors such as international organizations, the civil society, armed groups andothers rose dramatically and they became an integral part of the globalgovernance and legal arena, especially in the field of international humanrights law. Nowadays, no scholar can deny the increasingly influential role ofnon-state actors in national and international political and legal fora.Especially, the tremendous role of the non-governmental organizations in the protectionand promotion of human rights. This essay will identify what are non-governmentalorganizations, what roles they play in promotion and protection of the humanrights, what kind of challenges they face in their work, what limitations theyhave and their future.
Definitionof non-governmental organizations Thereis no generally agreed definition of non-governmental organizations (NGO) andthe term carries different connotations in different context. Nevertheless,there are some fundamental features for the definition of the non-governmentalorganizations. Clearly non-governmental organizations must be independent fromany governmental influence and control.
In addition, NGO must be non-political,not for profit and non-violent. These characteristics are commonly used as theyreflect the conditions for recognition by the UN. Non-governmental organizations can havedifferent forms in different countries: not for profit organizations, publicfunds, public associations, non-governmental organizations and others. NGOs canalso be divided into two thematic categories they work with such as generalized(civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights) and specific(child rights, rights of persons with disabilities, freedom from torture and etc.).Moreover, NGOs can be divided into two groups based on where they work:national or international. Some NGOs can work both at national andinternational levels.
This essay uses definition thatexcludes political, religious and labour associations Legalbasis of the NGOsFreedom of association recognized in theUniversal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 20), the International Covenanton Civil and Political Rights (Article 22), the International Covenant onEconomic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 8), in the InternationalConvention on Protection from All Forms of Discrimination (Article 5), as wellas in a number of regional and special treaties, is a legal basis for creationand activities of NGOs. These important international legal documents enshrine theright of every person to freedom of association and “the right of eachperson to form unions and act in such to protect their interests”4. Thesetwo rights are essential elements of the purpose of non-governmentalorganizations. The term “non-governmentalorganization” as a legal lexicon in the course of the creation of theCharter of the United Nations in the year due to the inclusion of Article 71, aradical innovation at the time, which enabled NGOs to participate legally in internationalrelations and interstate diplomacy.
Of course, the role of such a specificform of citizens’ association as human rights NGOs that most correspond to thenature of the democratic transformations taking place in the world should besingled out from the general category of non-governmental organizations. Theydiffer in many respects from the traditional form of public associations, whichinclude trade unions, political parties, and business unions, scientific andtechnical, cultural and educational and other voluntary social unions. Humanrights NGOs, carrying in themselves the general characteristics of publicassociations, demonstrate a number of special, inherent only in this variety ofpublic associations, features.Human rights organizations areorganizations that are called upon to serve disadvantaged or ignored groups ofthe population, promote the realization of their rights, seek social change andbe in the service of people. These are independent, effective non-governmentalorganizations, which, while contributing to the protection of basic humanrights, generally contribute to national development, ensuring the unity ofsociety and the development of human rights.Whydo we need NGOs at the international human rights regime? In general, states are not committed tothe protection of the human rights standards in their own territory even thoughthey voluntarily accepted them.
States even less interested in working with theother states in the protection and promotion of human rights. Human rights standards protect individualsfrom the state and states seen as potential perpetrators. International humanrights organizations are dependent on their functional responsibilities andcapacity and they are not effective in protection of the rights of individuals asindividual often overwhelmed or intimidated when confronting powerful stateauthorities or human rights violations. In this case, human rights regime needscounter power to the state such as non-governmental organizations to promoteand protect the rights of the individuals. That is why, international andregional human rights mechanisms are not effective without non-governmentalorganizations. Moreover, human rights systems depends on non-governmentalorganizations as NGOs participate in monitoring of compliance of the state, incollecting reliable information and changing the system to more effective.
Internationalrelations and NGOs (historical background of NGO development)? Non-governmental organizations, as theyare understood today, emerged in the XIX century, but they acquired a significantpolitical influence only in the last half of the century. The existence of human rights NGOs has a longhistory. In 1863, the International Committee of the Red Cross was establishedin Geneva to protect human rights during the armed conflicts. Then the FrenchLeague for the Protection of Human Rights and Citizen emerged in 1902, theSociety for Combating Slavery was established in London in 1909 and aninternational league of human rights appeared in New York in 1942.The most important stage of thedevelopment of the human rights movement is associated with the end of theSecond World War, the creation of the UN and the proclamation of the UniversalDeclaration of Human Rights.
“It is necessary that human rightsbe protected by the rule of law in order to ensure that a person is not forcedto resort, as a last resort, to an uprising against tyranny andoppression.” These words were made on December 10, 1948, when the thirdsession of the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 217 A, which proclaimedthe Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration has become a trulyhistoric document, and the day of its adoption is celebrated practically by allcountries of the world as Human Rights Day.A significant stage in the developmentof the human rights movement was the 70-ies. The emergence of new human rightsmovements and NGOs was facilitated by the fact that it was during this periodthat the creation of the International Bill of Rights was completed. Legallybinding acts in the field of human rights protection – the Covenant on Civiland Political Rights and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rightswere adopted and entered into force.With the advent of these importantinternational treaties, not only the legal basis for the activities of humanrights organizations has been strengthened, but the legal framework withinwhich both national and international NGOs could operate has become morespecific. It was during this period that organizations such as theInternational Commission of Jurists, Amnesty International, the InternationalFederation of Human Rights, the International Organization for the Protectionof Children,Thus, it can be said that the emergenceof NGOs, whose goal is the protection of human rights, reflects an objectivereality.
Human rights organizations reflect the need in all countries fororganizations that allow the solution of the human rights problem informally,quickly, efficiently and at low cost. The activities of human rights NGOs arebased on the same principles of respect for human rights as enshrined in theUniversal Declaration of Human Rights, each of which is called upon to promotethe implementation in their countries of international human standards commonto all mankind.NGOsand International relation theories Roleof the NGOs in international human rights protection and promotionDepending onmission and scope of operation NGOs use different methods in order to promomteand protect human rights. Non-governmentalorganizations play different roles in the process of promotion and protectionof human rights. Theirrole also can change depending on theirpartners or counter actors. In general, NGOs act as advocates, norm setters,monitors According to theHicks, NGOs play main role in initiating human rightsdiplomacy.
By showing existing abuses and pushing the state to bear its duty,NGOs act as catalysts of action taken by government or other actors. Whenexisting violations are exposed, the government is expected to react and if thestate fails to do so, it is often followed by close examination of the issueand criticism by NGOs. NGOs are catalystsbecause they do not have direct authority to change the regime and legislation sothey have to influence states to alter policies or review judgments throughmobilization of the stakeholders and civil society. NGOs can put catalyticpressure both domestically and internationally.
They can catalyze the humanrights change through capacity building and human rights education, which willlead to awakening of the mind of citizens and prepare them for more effectiveclaim of their human rights. The movement against torture led by AmnestyInternational can be one of the best examples of catalyst role.Also, NGOs play crucial role in advocacyof Peggy Hicks defines six roles for the non-governmental organizations, whowork for promotion and protection of the human rights. These are catalyst, monitors,advocates, shapers of the debate, partners in policy making, legalizers or beneficiaries.
According her role distribution, NGOscan be catalysts of the actions by government or other actors by exposing humanrights abuses in the public domain. Challengesof NGOs Growing role and influence ofnon-governmental organizations in international arena expose them to critics.They are often criticized for their lack of accountability, legitimacy andfragmentation of national efforts.