Important New NGO: Advancing Human Rights

Founded by Robert Bernstein, originally a founder of Human Rights Watch, but now a severe critic of the group, he says of this new group: “creating Advancing Human Rights is the most important thing I’ve done in my life.” Here’s the group’s web site: Advancing Human Rights: Dedicated to Individual Liberty and Good Governance. Bernstein’s introductory address is here, and it’s a must-read. It’s clear that AHR will be, and has been created to, avoid the pitfalls that HRW has blown its tires in: It will be spending far more of its time in criticizing unfree societies, and not wasting its time criticizing open societies which already have a healthy internal debate.

In addition to Bernstein, the board includes David Keyes, Yelena Bonner, Irwin Cotler, Richard Kemp, and Anthony Julius. (In case you were wondering, no, I was not asked.) From the press release:

…At a pre-launch event attended by journalists, authors and human rights activists, Bernstein introduced the AHR team. “Leading our new organization as executive director is David Keyes. David and I started working together one year ago. He has built a phenomenal organization, CyberDissidents.org, which is a central part of our new human rights organization. It supports pro-democracy Internet activists throughout the Middle East and has been on the cutting edge of human rights.”

AHR will return to the fundamentals of human rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. CyberDissidents.org and Straight Talk on Human Rights, a new platform for common sense analysis, will form the initial programs of AHR.

“We will focus on women’s rights and free speech,” Bernstein noted. “These two rights — the spearhead of most totalitarian repression — are so important because where they are absent, achieving the other very important human rights is practically impossible. We will, of course, go into closed societies.”

“Now that these closed societies are exploding,” he continued, “they will need every ounce of the human rights community’s attention so that we don’t have another Iran.”…

Bernstein and Kemp appeared on Bloomberg TV to talk about the launch. Watch it here.

If it stays true to what appears to be the vision of its founding, this is an exciting development. In the competitive NGO market, AHR is filling an important space.

(If you missed the Bernstein address that made waves, it’s located here, and his New York Times op-ed: Rights Watchdog, Lost in the Mideast.)

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