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Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch is a non-governmental organization (NGO), founded in 1978 and dedicated to research and advocacy regarding human rights issues around the world. With headquarters in New York City, Human Rights Watch maintains offices around the globe, including Amsterdam, Beirut, Geneva, Johannesburg, and Tokyo, among others.

The organization states that its objective is to prevent discrimination, uphold political freedom and to protect people from inhumane conduct during wartime. In large measure, this organization has a strong focus on individual political rights. The actual activity of the organization is very broad, and includes the following:

  1. Protesting against the use of landmines
  2. The advocacy of labor rights in agrarian economies
  3. Concerns about the activities of the International Monetary Fund.

Despite the relatively narrow definition of human rights that the organization offers in its literature, the types of activities that it monitors indicate that it has a very broad definition for establishing human rights standards, and focuses heavily on economic and cultural issues as the basis of human rights.

There is a significant body of literature that contains criticisms of the failure of the United States to effectively include human rights policy as a component of foreign policy in all situations. Much of the of human rights policy originates with entities that have vested interests in advocating human rights issues, such as international humanitarian organizations and developing nations that are accused of human rights violations. Nonetheless, a careful examination of the literature indicates that much of the criticism has merit and that there is a high degree of inconsistency in the application of the principles of human rights espoused by the United States in the development and execution of its foreign policy.

Human Rights Watch came into existence as private, American-based group called Helsinki Watch, with the purpose of monitoring the USSR's compliance with the Helsinki Accords. The Helsinki Accords were an agreement signed in 1975, designed to improve the relationship between the West and the Soviet bloc. One of the declarations of the document stressed the respect for human rights and support for the fundamental freedoms of thought, conscience, and religion.

Human Rights Watch seeks to support the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and opposes any perceived violations of those rights, including capital punishment and any form of discrimination. Human Rights Watch publishes reports on what it believes are violations of human rights annually. It was one of six NGOs that help founding of the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers in 1998. It also is instrumental in the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the International Freedom of Expression Exchange, NGOs that monitor censorship around the world.

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