Human rights

Enlightenment ideals were unmistakable influences behind the establishment of the League of Nations (1919-1946) and still more so behind the Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations in 1948. Since then, however, many member states have ignored these highly esteemed rules of the game they solemnly ratified of their own free will, in some cases even routinely. This gave rise to an array of organizations that took issue with such violations and tried to exert moral pressure on the transgressors.

Similar organizations had previously, following the fight against slavery, targeted white slavery (222) and child labour (223). National and international protest movements opposing such practices date back to the nineteenth century. In some places, movements for animal welfare have existed for almost as long.

Amnesty International is presently the most influential human rights movement in the world; in 1998 it entrusted its archive to the IISH (224-225). The countless documents that this organization has gathered about infringements on the rights of workers are obviously compatible with the core collection of the Institute, while the others relate to a rapidly growing sub-collection. In China (226) and Russia (227-228), where massive human rights violations occurred earlier in the twentieth century, some organizations dedicate their efforts both to commemoration of past victims and to the predicament of new ones.

One important effect of the growing awareness that every human being has fundamental rights is the resulting opportunity to accommodate divergent demands by invoking human rights. The UN Declaration, for example, might be stretched to include the right to personal sexual preference (229) and the right of farmers to land (230).