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Published as Chapter 13 in Human Rights, the Rule of Law, and Development in Africa, Gaby Oré Aguilar & Felipe Gómez Isa, eds.

The human rights movement is largely the product of the horrors of World War II. The development of its normative content and structure is the direct result of the abominations committed by the Third Reich during that war. Drawing on the Western liberal tradition, the human rights movement arose primarily to control and contain state action against the individual. It is ironic that it was the victors of the war, most of whom held colonies in Africa, who determined and prevailed upon the United Nations to give form and content to the human rights movement. It is this exclusionary beginning and lack of genuine universality – the absence of major cultures and geographically specific historical perspectives – that are the source of serious tensions within the human rights movement today. This chapter examines the problems raised by the transplantation of this movement – which is uniquely a creature of the North – to Africa and the prospects for viable nongovernmental human rights organizations (NGOs) on the continent. There is no future for the human rights movements in Africa unless it can secure domestic ideological, financial, and moral support from interested constituencies.


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Africa, Human rights, Organizations, Development, United Nations, Universality, NGO


Human Rights Law | Law

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African Human Rights Organizations: Questions of Context and Legitimacy