Columbia International Affairs Online: Course Packs and Syllabi

Human Rights and International Law

David P. Forsythe
from Human Rights and Comparative Foreign Policy: Foundations of Peace, David P. Forsythe, ed.
United Nations University


The United Nations University, an independent unit of the UN system located in Tokyo, approached me in 1995 about carrying out a study of human rights in comparative foreign policy. I was eager to do so, having long regarded human rights in foreign policy as an underdeveloped aspect of international human rights. We had many studies on human rights and international law, and quite a few on human rights and international organizations. But few authors had focused on human rights and foreign policy, and fewer still had shown any interest in this topic on a truly comparative basis.

I am grateful to the leadership of the UNU for their interest in, and support for, this project: Rector von Ginkel and his associates Takashi Inoguchi, Hideo Sato, and Ramesh Thakur. With much-appreciated funding from the UNU, I assembled a steering committee whose diverse members included Peter Baehr, Sanjoy Banerjee, Jack Donnelly, Cristina Eguizabal, and myself. With the help of the New York office of the UNU, and especially of its director Jacques Fomerand, we hammered out a framework of analysis that would be used by all authors. With the assistance of UNU headquarters in Tokyo, and especially of Chiyuki Aoi and Yoshie Sawada there, we assembled a multinational team of authors who agreed to utilize the common framework that had been established by the steering committee.

Many of the authors met in Washington in 1997 to review progress and compare approaches. Christopher Joyner and Tony Arend of Georgetown University facilitated some of our meetings, and they joined Jack Donnelly and myself in presenting extended critiques of the works in process. The American Political Science Association gave us a couple of panel slots on their programme at the 1997 annual meeting, which led to lively discussions. At a later stage, two independent referees gave us further critiques that helped us improve the manuscript.

Along the way various graduate students and support staff at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln provided invaluable editorial and other assistance: J. T. Smith, Barbara Ann Rieffer, Jennier Gutierrez, Helen Sexton, and Monica M. Mason. UNL's computer experts were also most helpful: John Teets and Gregg Frey.

The result is a book that breaks new ground in our understanding of internationally recognized human rights in comparative perspective.

David P. Forsythe

Lincoln, Nebraska, USA

April 1999