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Is there any way to reearn NGOs lost credibility?

Human rights are the basic, inherent, immutable and inalienable rights to which a person or an independent and sovereign state is entitled simply by the virtue of his being born a human or a state to function.

by Anwar A. Khan

There are so many international non-governmental Human Rights Organisations across the world, but the most prominent ones are Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF), Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF), Human Rights First (HRF), et al.

On paper, it makes us look like fine upstanding global citizens, but in practice, it could be genuinely argued that those organisations are toothless tigers.



Human rights are the basic, inherent, immutable and inalienable rights to which a person or an independent and sovereign state is entitled simply by the virtue of his being born a human or a state to function. They are rights which are to be made available as a matter of right.

In most cases, the issues of blatant violations of international rules by American government authorities in weaker nations draw to their notice, they mysteriously choose to remain silent.In other words, they are votaries of mighty powers, but they are very coarse in their actions towards the lesser extent ofpowerful states. This is very unconscionable.

So, they must need for more teeth and more resources for them (NGOs) to do their jobsaright. It is, however, no excuse for jerry-built work products, foil, and failure to speak up in the face of egregious and systemic human rights violations majorly by America like a rapscallion state along with its side-kicknations.

Millions have suffered crimes against humanity by those rascal states. It is almost like anuppermost dictator’s ceasefire agreement with international non-governmental Human Rights Organisations (NGOs), where for instance: They do not speak badly about America and its compadre states!

There are fairly large human rights abuses that are taking place in countries after countries all-over the worldwhich have been imposed in the form of various abrasive sanctions to stultify them and their people so that they can’t command a standing position according to their volition to live on. When the drone fighter planes strike weaker nations, annihilate humans, destroy vast establishments for their self-interests only, these NGOs enshroud their faces and do not take any bold step to stop the oppressors. Then, what is the use of those NGOs?

Likewise, some global organisations have also come under increasing fire for the inability to solve problems that their charter is supposed to address. The United Nations is one of them with its failure to get Israel to adhere to its many resolutions, some submitted by the UN Security Council.

The OIC is also a toothless tiger. The critical situation in Myanmar is a good ground for it to prove its mettle. A body made up of 57 nations is no joke. It is time for the organisation’s bureaucrats to sit up and take note. This recent appeal must be addressed more solidly than with a press release of little or no consequence.

Human rights and democracy are not one and the same. Human rights can be incrementally improved in contexts lacking elements of democratic governance. Yet, in the long run, the global human rights regime should be premised on the idea that democratic governance is the best foundation for durable human rights protection. Multilateral institutions should premise their declaratory, diplomatic, and aid policies on democracy as the foundation, as the UN Development Programmes did between 1999 and 2005. Human rights benefit not only from good governance but also from democratic governance—advancing horizontally among states and vertically by planting deeper institutionalised roots within states and societies.

Global economic institutions, given adequate political will, can also help promote and protect human rights. In particular, these institutions should promote the notions of equal access to justice and real-time freedom of information as catalysts for economic development. For instance, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and regional development banks should extend their anticorruption and good governance work to promote equal access to legal rights for all groups with the objective of expanding developing nations' productivity and prosperity. This effort should include streamlining and expanding projects related to rule of law, bolstering emerging judicial institutions, and promoting the functioning of civil society within countries.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) and its member states should encourage and enforce the elimination of some states' barriers to freedom of information so as to facilitate market growth.

It is undisputed that human rights non-governmental organisations have proliferated dramatically in the sixty years since the United Nations promulgated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that human rights NGOs boastfully claim they play a critical role in promoting and protecting human rights in all corners of the globe. But in reality, they do nothing.

The United Nations, other inter-governmental organisations, and national concludes that although much has changed since the United Nations and modern human rights NGOs were born six decades ago, what has not changed is the disagreement over what constitutes a human rights NGO and how to categorise such groups. However, stakeholders in the international human rights law arena universally agree that human rights NGOs are meant to protect internationally recognised human rights at local, national, sub-regional, regional and global levels. But their failures are blunt.

Successful and effective human rights NGOs should possess basic attributes, as described herein, and self-regulate — possibly in part by following NGO Codes of Conduct to overcome internal and external challenges. Concerted efforts of all relevant stakeholders are needed to ensure that human rights NGOs are able to fulfill their mandate to protect human rights in all countries from harming any other countries by any scallywag powerful states.

The successful, effective human rights NGOs can and should be models for all human rights advocates and defenders, who struggle with great sacrifice for others to enjoy the human experience.

With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that the human rights treaties were not so much an act of idealism as an act of hubris, with more than a passing resemblance to the civilising efforts undertaken by western governments and missionary groups in the 19th century, which did little good for native populations while entangling European powers in the affairs of countries they did not understand. A humbler approach is long overdue.

Ending the potential for nuclear warfare may seem like a topic left over from the Cold War, but it remains relevant in today’s globalised world. Robert Frye, founder of The Nuclear World Project and director of the film ‘In My Lifetime’, works to unravel the complex story of nuclear proliferation and create dialogue about the dangers it poses for mankind. The project and film are meant as a wake-up call for humanity, with the aim of creating an understanding of the realities of nuclear weapons, exploring ways to present other options, and facilitating a dialogue about a resolution that will preserve our world for future generations.

The film is screening at universities, festivals, and international organisations around the world. Host a screening for your group or university and kick off a dialogue about one of the most pressing global issues of our time. Here the international NGOs should play an efficacious role.

Most ephemerally, human rights can provide an aspirational, positive road-map that can help guide decision making, including the balancing of trade-offs. This is particularly important because, grappling with disruptive and potentially dangerous forces that present complex collective action challenges, such as, Amnesty International, HRW… can often constitute tremendously dispiriting work. It does not touch the superpowers like America and its powerful feudatory states.

The human rights framework was put in place after the last World War in order to create a shared, global set of expectations related to human dignity and self-governance. The impetus for that project was in part to address the underlying challenges that were perceived to have fed that great conflagration and resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind.

Infused with that collective mission and self-awareness, the contemporary IHR framework has to be endured and evolved. It has and can continue to underscore our shared humanity, provide a moral compass, and generate tenacity and purpose even in the face of daunting odds being faced by the weaker nations by the might powers.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Preamble’s Rene Cassin, sometimes called the “father” of the UDHR, explained the shift in title from the “International” to the “Universal Declaration” as a reflection of the intent for it to be “morally binding on everyone, not only on the governments that voted for its adoption.” This statement is simply Janus-faced because the large human rights organisations like HRW, AI,…are reluctant to touch those rogue powerful states which have been committing crimes in different forms to other weaker nations since long. This is shameful and not acceptable under any setting. Then a prominent question is valid here: what is the use of such human rights organisations?

Many organisations around the world dedicate their efforts to protecting human rights and ending human rights abuses. Major human rights organisations maintain extensive websites documenting violations and calling for remedial action, both at a governmental and grass-roots level. Public support and condemnation of abuses is important to their success; as human rights organisations are most effective when their calls for reform are backed by strong public advocacy.
At a time when human rights violations remain widespread, the discourse of human rights continues to flourish.

The use of “human rights” in English-language books has increased 200-fold since 1940, and is used today 100 times more often than terms such as “constitutional rights” and “natural rights”. Although people have always criticised governments, it is only in recent decades that they have begun to do so in the distinctive idiom of human rights.

The United States and Europe have recently condemned human rights violations in Syria, Russia, China and Iran whereas it doesn’t look its own surlyface at looking glass. Western countries often make foreign aid conditional on human rights and have even launched military interventions based on human rights violations. Many people argue that the incorporation of the idea of human rights into international law is one of the great moral achievements of human history.

Because human rights law gives rights to all people regardless of nationality, it deprives governments of their traditional riposte when foreigners criticise them for abusing their citizens – And yet it is hard to avoid the conclusion that governments continue to violate human rights with impunity. Why, for example, do more than 150 countries (out of 193 countries that belong to the UN) engage in torture? Why has the number of authoritarian countries increased in the last several years? Why do women remain a subordinate class in nearly all countries of the world? Why do children continue to work in mines and factories in so many countries?

The truth is that human rights law has failed to accomplish its objectives. There is little evidence that human rights treaties, on the whole, have improved the wellbeing of people. The reason is that human rights were never as universal as people hoped, and the belief that they could be forced upon countries as a matter of international law was shot through with misguided assumptions from the very beginning. The human rights movement shares something in common with the hubris of development economics, which in previous decades tried and failed to alleviate poverty by imposing top-down solutions on developing countries. But where development economists have reformed their approach, the human rights movement has yet to acknowledge its failures. It is time for a reckoning.

America’s unlawful misdoings to other sovereign and independent nations are significant challenges to the international human rights regime.

So, the international human rights organisations or NGOs only remain as “toothless tigers.” As such, they might need drastic dental surgery, but nothing stops them from raising their hackles now and then.

Civil society representation through prominent independent scholars, lawyers and researchers is critical for giving them greater depth and strength. This would give them both teeth and possibly restore their roars. And the international community should step up and place pressure on those rogue elephant governments to respect human rights across the board.

-The End –

The writer is an independent political observer based in Dhaka, Bangladesh who writes on politics, political and human-centred figures, current and international affairs.

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