Principles vs Interests: Participation of Human Rights Organizations in US Foreign Policy Making

Principles vs Interests:
Participation of Human Rights Organizations in US Foreign Policy Making

Erofeeva P.A.,

Cand. Sci. (Pol. Sci.), Lecturer, Nizhny Novgorod Linguistics University,

elibrary_id: 613222 |

DOI: 10.17976/jpps/2017.01.13

For citation:

Erofeeva P.A. Principles vs Interests: Participation of Human Rights Organizations in US Foreign Policy Making. – Polis. Political Studies. 2017. No. 1. P. 147-161. (In Russ.).


A dominant global player, United States can champion international human rights norms and make sure they are respected by partner states. Hence United States foreign policy is subject to human rights groups scrutiny and influence via lobbying. An unanswered question is what they lobby and why. The article analyses factors that shape United States lobbying agenda of the world’s leading human rights advocacy groups Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW). Two perspectives on human rights groups guide the analysis. In accordance with the new social movements theory human rights groups are viewed as value-oriented organizations that are driven by their mission to tackle most serious violations first. Alternatively an institutional approach predicts that their lack of money and dependence on donor preferences and powerful states trump values and make look at United States clients over countries that are most in need. To test the hypotheses regressions on data on country citations, human rights violations in cited countries as well as their trade and aid data are used. The results indicate that for both organizations, the following correlation exists: the more severe the violations in a given country are, the more this country is cited in their reports. Structure of United States partner relations appears to be significant only for one of the two groups. The results are discussed in the light of organizational structure and history of the two groups. Overall conclusion stresses the importance of mission and values for understanding human rights advocacy. 

Amnesty International; Human Rights Watch; human rights advocacy; lobbying; US foreign policy; human rights; institutionalism.


Alekseeva T.A. 2010. Reflections on Modern World Politics. – Polis. Political Studies. 2010. No. 3. P. 180‑184. (In Russ.)

Amnesty International. Annual Report’65. Amnesty International: London. 1965. 59 p.

Andreeva O. S. Non-Governmental Agents in Global Politics. – Power. 2009. No. 4. P. 54‑57. (In Russ.)

Brysk A. From Above and Below Social Movements, the International System, and Human Rights in Argentina. – Comparative Political Studies. 1993. Vol. 26. No. 3. P. 259‑285. DOI:

Brysk A. Speaking Rights to Power: Constructing Political Will. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2013. 272 p. DOI:

Clark A. Diplomacy of Conscience: Amnesty International and Changing Human Rights Norms. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 2010. 200 p. DOI:

Cooley A., Ron J. The NGO Scramble: Organizational Insecurity and the Political Economy of Transnational Action. – International Security. 2002. Vol. 27. No. 1. P. 5‑39. DOI:

DeMars W. NGOs and Transnational Networks: Wild Cards in World Politics. London: Pluto Press. 2005. 256 p.

Hendrix C., Wong W. Knowing Your Audience: How the Structure of International Relations and Organizational Choices Affect Amnesty International’s Advocacy. – Review of International Organizations. 2014. Vol. 9. No. 1. P. 29‑58. DOI:‑013‑9175-z

Hill D. et al. Information Politics Versus Organizational Incentives: When Are Amnesty International’s ‘‘Naming and Shaming’’ Reports Biased? – International Studies Quarterly. 2013. Vol. 57. No. 2. P. 219‑232. DOI:

Hill D., Jones Z. M. An Empirical Evaluation of Explanations for State Repression. – American Political Science Review. 2014. Vol. 108. No. 3. P. 661‑687. DOI:

Hopgood S. Keepers of the Flame: Understanding Amnesty International. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 2006. 272 p.

Keck M., Sikkink K. Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 1998. 240 p.

Khagram S. Restructuring World Politics: Transnational Social Movements, Networks, and Norms. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 2002. 384 p.

Kokoshin A.A. Some Macrostructure Changes in the World Politics. Trends for 2020 2030s. – Polis. Political Studies. 2014. No. 4. P. 38‑62. (In Russ.) DOI:

Lebedeva M.M. Resources of Influence in World Politics. – Polis. Political Studies. 2014. No. 1. P. 99‑108 (In Russ.). DOI:

Lebedeva M.M. The World Politics: Tendencies of the Development. – Polis. Political Studies. 2009. No. 4. P. 113‑124. (In Russ.)

Manheim J.B., Rich R.C. Empirical Political Analysis: Research Methods in Political Science. (Russ. ed.: Politologija: Metody issledovanija. Moscow: Ves’ Mir. 1997. 544 p.)

O’Byrne D. Human Rights: an Introduction. London: Routledge. 2002. 464 p.

Offe C. New Social Movements: Challenging the Boundaries of Institutional Politics. – Social Research. 1985. Vol. 52. No. 4. P. 817‑868.

Pavlova T.V. Social Movements as a Factor Transforming Institutional Environment: Theoretical Issues. – Polis. Political Studies. 2008. No. 5. P. 113‑124. (In Russ.)

Prakash A., Gugerty M. Advocacy Organizations and Collective Action. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2010. 336 p. DOI:

Risse-Kappen et al. The Power of Human Rights: International Norms and Domestic Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1999. 318 p. DOI:

Ron J. et al. Transnational Information Politics: NGO Human Rights Reporting, 1986‑2000. – International Studies Quarterly. 2005. Vol. 49. No. 3. P. 557‑588. DOI:‑2478.2005.00377.x

Sovremennaja mirovaja politika. Prikladnoj analiz. Pod red. A.D. Bogaturova [World Politics Today. Practical Analysis. Ed. by A.D. Bogutarov] Moscow: Aspect Press. 2009. 588 p. (In Russ.)

Sungurov A.Yu. Human Rights as Subject of Political Science and as Interdisciplinary Conception. – Polis. Political Studies. 2010. No. 6. P. 90‑105. (In Russ.)

Welch C. NGOs and Human Rights: Promise and Performance. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 2001. 304 p.

Wood R. M., Gibney M. The Political Terror Scale (PTS): A Re-Introduction and a Comparison to CIRI. – Human Rights Quarterly. 2010. Vol. 32. No. 2. P. 367‑400.    

Content No. 1, 2017

See also:

Melville A.Yu., Ilyin M.V., Makarenko B.I., Meleshkina Ye.Yu., Mironyuk M.G., Sergeev V.M., Timofeev I.N.,
Russian Foreign Policy as Seen by the Expert Community. – Polis. Political Studies. 2009. No4

Shebanova M.A.,
International bureaucracy as the stratum of transnational political elites. – Polis. Political Studies. 2012. No1

Fedotova V.G., Fedotova N.N., Chugrov S.V.,
Culture, Institutions, Politics. – Polis. Political Studies. 2018. No1

Nikovskaya L.I., Yakimets V.N.,
Regional public policy in Russia: types, subjects, institutions and modern challenges. – Polis. Political Studies. 2011. No1

Sungurov A.Yu., Kozlova N.N., Mamagulashvili D.I.,
Public Chambers as Institutions for Implementing the Paternalistic Model of Interaction Between Authority and Society: Experience of the Tver Region and St. Petersburg. – Polis. Political Studies. 2020. No3



   2024      2023      2022      2021   
   2020      2019      2018      2017      2016   
   2015      2014      2013      2012      2011   
   2010      2009      2008      2007      2006   
   2005      2004      2003      2002      2001   
   2000      1999      1998      1997      1996   
   1995      1994      1993      1992      1991