Diplomacy of Conscience: Amnesty International and Changing Human Rights Norms

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Diplomacy of Conscience: Amnesty International and Changing Human Rights Norms

By Ann Marie Clark
Princeton University Press, 2001
196 pp. $39.50

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights gave form to the human rights movement, but its practical achievements came much later. Only in the last 30 years has an international human rights regime emerged, encompassing norms and principles of government conduct backed by treaties, commissions, monitoring groups, and the United Nations. Clark provides an engaging account of Amnesty International's pioneering role in the 1960s, bringing public attention to torture, disappearances, and political killings. The story then reveals the roots of modern transnational public-interest activism and its evolving strategies, including research and monitoring activity, pronouncements of legal opinion, celebrity appearances, and letter-writing campaigns. Clark argues that Amnesty International's effectiveness has several sources: its reliance on internationally endorsed principles, its political independence and expert-based impartiality, and its credible fact-finding. The book makes clear that the creation of human rights norms was facilitated not just by exposing abuses but by quietly promoting (with the United Nations) new bodies of law and slowly accumulating international standards of conduct.

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