In 1948, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognized that "the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family [are] the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world." But, today, more than 50 years later, for most of the world's people, human rights exist only in theory.
In too many countries, laws, governments or religious or cultural norms limit what people can do and who they can be. In some societies, personal and communal identity in terms of ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or other status can determine what rights individuals and communities have, if any. Identity biases have resulted in systematic denial of individual and communal rights to economic development, social power, political participation, cultural survival, gender equity, and in many cases, physical security. In too many societies, holding political or other beliefs that run counter to those of a ruling elite or questioning cultural tradition can result in poverty, marginalization, imprisonment, torture or death.
Around the world, activists are struggling to remove these barriers, working every day to make human rights real in their own countries. The International Human Rights Law Group (IHRLG) was created to support these efforts. Since 1978, we have worked in more than 88 countries to help local leaders and organizations address domestic human rights abuses and to lift those struggles out of isolation and onto the international stage where regional and global institutions develop and enforce human rights standards. For more than a decade, we have integrated women's human rights concerns into all aspects of our programs and have played a leading role in the international movement to place women's rights, including economic, social and cultural rights, at the forefront of the human rights struggle.
The challenge for IHRLG's staff of committed human rights professionals from 22 countries is to find the most effective ways to support human rights movements, and the individuals who comprise them, in their efforts to make human rights real. Our website describes IHRLG's efforts, and those of our local partners, to give voice to human rights concerns; press for justice and accountability from the ground up; and set the international agenda for human rights norms.