NGOs and Human Rights: Channels of Power
Research Handbook on Human Rights, Edward Elgar, 2009
28 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2009 Last revised: 27 Dec 2013
Date Written: January 8, 2009
This essay, a revised version of which will appear in the Research Handbook on Human Rights (Edward Elgar, forthcoming 2009), attempts to systematize NGO activity relating to human rights. It first describes why human rights supplies fertile ground for the study of non-governmental organizations. As human rights obligations cannot be explained in terms of reciprocal state interest, non-state actors are a probable causal agent in the entrenchment of human rights regimes. The chapter confronts NGOs as agents of material power. The chapter then describes four primary pathways for the exercise of NGO power: through and against states, international organizations, corporations, and each other. Only by situating NGO power relative to state and non-state entities does the breadth and novelty of NGO participation in today's global decision-making come into full relief. Given the fact of that broad power, the chapter concludes by addressing the question of NGO accountability, suggesting that institutionalization of NGO power holds the most promise for appropriately constraining its exercise.
Keywords: non-governmental organizations, NGOs, human rights, international relations theory, international organizations
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