In international human rights law, states areconsidered main actors and were considered the sole actor for many years beforethe World War II.
But at the same time,civil society was inalienable part of the promotion and protection of rights ofindividuals far before adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in1947. Civil society movement for the abolition of the slavery can be a goodexample of pre-human rights era civil society movement and its impact onpolitical and legal change. Following the beginning of 20th century,structure of the global political and legal relations started changing rapidly.After World War II, role of the non-state actors such as internationalorganizations, the civil society, armed groups and others rose dramatically andthey became an integral part of the global governance and legal arena,especially in the field of international human rights law. Nowadays, no scholarcan deny the increasingly influential role of non-state actors in national andinternational political and legal fora.
Especially, the tremendous role of the non-governmentalorganizations in the protection and promotion of human rights. This essay will explore definition of the non-governmentalorganizations, what roles they play in promotion and protection of the humanrights, what kind of challenges they face in their work, what limitations theyhave and their future. Definitionof non-governmental organizations Non-governmentalorganizations (hereinafter – NGO) are intermediary among individuals, internationalorganizations and governments. They are part of the civil society, which is broaderconcept that includes interest groups, religious associations, trade union andet cetera. When it comes to the definition, there is no generally agreeddefinition of non-governmental organizations and the term carries differentconnotations in different context. Nevertheless, there are some fundamentalfeatures for the definition of the non-governmental organizations. Clearly non-governmentalorganizations must be independent from any governmental influence and control.
Inaddition, NGO must be non-political, not for profit and non-violent. Thesecharacteristics are commonly used as they reflect the conditions forrecognition by the UN. Non-governmentalorganizations can have different forms in different countries: not for profitorganizations, public funds, public associations, non-governmentalorganizations and others.
NGOs can also be divided into two thematic categoriesthey work with such as generalized (civil and political rights, economic,social and cultural rights) and specific (child rights, rights of persons withdisabilities, freedom from torture and etc.). Moreover, NGOs can be dividedinto two groups based on where they work: national or international. Some NGOscan work both at national and international levels. This essay will explore onespecific type of non-governmental organizations, namely human rights NGOs.
According to the Wiseberg, humanrights nongovernmental organization can be identified as a private associationwhich devotes significant resources to the promotion and protection of humanrights, which is independent of both governmental and political groups thatseek direct political power, and which does not itself seek such pow (Wiseberg, 1991). The more specific definition of human rights NGOis given by Martin Olz: “Generally, for an NGO to be considered as human rightsNGO it should be of private character and its work should be guided by the ideaof international human rights as set forth in the UN Declaration of HumanRights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, theInternational Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and other instrumentof international law” (Olz, 1997). Thelatter definition of human rights NGO is used in the context of this essay.