|Preamble section 8:|
|NOW, THEREFORE, THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY, Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.|
It is difficult to identify any major advance in the development of substantive human rights law or its implementation in which non-governmental organizations ("NGOs") have not played an important role. NGOs were largely responsible for launching the postwar human rights movement; they pressed governments to internationalize human rights and to develop an international law of human rights; they helped promote the human rights provisions in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Covenants and other conventions on human rights; and they continue to provide mobilizing force behind major advances in the substantive law of human rights and in the establishment and effective operation of international human rights institutions.
Since the 1970's, there has been a veritable explosion in the number and breadth of organizations devoted to human rights. The 1970's was when human rights groups began to emerge in Asia in response to repressive governments in Korea, Indonesia and the Philippines. The Helsinki Accords of 1975, in affirming "the right of the individual to know and act upon his rights," helped launch the human rights movement in the Soviet bloc. Human Rights groups emerged throughout Latin America in the 1970's and 1980's in response to death squads and "disappearances" under right- wing dictatorships. Much of Asia in the 1990's has seen a stunning proliferation of human rights groups. While growth has been slower in Africa and the Middle East, human rights organizations have established a firm presence in all but the most repressive countries. In many places, human rights defenders still face persecution, often severe. Yet, despite the danger, this growing movement has become a powerful new source of pressure to uphold human rights. It is the major reason why today the Universal Declaration has so much greater practical breadth and significance than it did fifty years ago.
In the process, the human rights movement has helped create a new kind of NGO. Many human rights organizations today serve not simply to amplify the voice of their members but also to collect and deploy information strategically. This role would not have been possible if human rights ideals did not speak so directly to the people of the world. It is only against the backdrop of popular values that human rights information has an impact. Yet because of these universal values, the human rights movement has influence far beyond its numbers, since by uncovering human rights crimes it can expose their author to public condemnation.
See further Kenneth Roth, "Human Rights Organization: A New Force for Social Change" in Human Rights, 738-9.
Peter Danchin, Columbia University