This is the old United Nations University website. Visit the new site at

Human Rights and Ethics

Ethics in Action

Transnational human rights and humanitarian advocacy is a major feature of both the development of civil society, and of multilateral cooperation. Beyond rhetoric lie the challenges of work in the field. This involves both "neutral" practices of humanitarian assistance within local institutional constraints, and the more "politicized" transmission of global human rights norms.

This project aims to examine these questions both from the INGO practitioners' point of view of making choices on priorities and practices, and from the broader theoretical perspective of philosophers and policy-makers. The study will delineate more precisely the political, social and cultural nature of the constraints faced by practitioners in their decisions and practices, as well as the possibilities for further policies of ethical action in a conflict-ridden world.

The resulting publication is the product of a multiyear dialogue between leading human rights theorists and high-level representatives of international human rights nongovernmental organizations (INGOs). It reflects the major ethical challenges associated with interaction between relatively rich and powerful Northern-based human rights INGOs; and the tension between expanding the organization's mandate to address more fundamental social and economic problems and focusing on more immediate and clearly identifiable violations of civil and political rights.


Page last modified 2019.04.16.

Home  •  About UNU  •  UNU Institutes  •  Events  •  Online Learning  •  Publications  •  Library