Cambridge Catalogue  
  • Your account
  • View basket
  • Help
Home > Catalogue > Ethics in Action
Ethics in Action
Google Book Search

Search this book


  • Page extent: 336 pages
  • Size: 234 x 156 mm
  • Weight: 0.66 kg
Add to basket


 (ISBN-13: 9780521865661)

DOI: 10.2277/0521865662

Manufactured on demand: supplied direct from the printer

 (Stock level updated: 02:08 GMT, 02 December 2015)



This book is the product of a multiyear dialogue between leading human rights theorists and high-level representatives of international human rights nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) sponsored by the United Nations University, headquartered in Tokyo with centers around the world, and the City University of Hong Kong. It is divided into three parts that reflect the major ethical challenges discussed at a series of workshops: the ethical challenges associated with interaction between relatively rich and powerful Northern-based human rights INGOs and recipients of their aid in the South; whether and how to collaborate with governments that place severe restrictions on the activities of human rights INGOs; and the tension between expanding the organizations’ mandate to address more fundamental social and economic problems and focusing on more immediate and clearly identifiable violations of civil and political rights. Each section contains contributions by both theorists and practitioners of human rights.

Daniel A. Bell is a professor in the Department of Philosophy at Tsinghua University in Beijing. He has held teaching posts at the City University of Hong Kong, the University of Hong Kong, and the National University of Singapore and research fellowships at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and Princeton’s University Center of Human Values. His books include Beyond Liberal Democracy: Political Thinking for an East Asian Context (2006), East Meets West: Human Rights and Democracy in East Asia (2000), and Communitarianism and Its Critics (1993).

Jean-Marc Coicaud heads the United Nations University (UNU) Office at the United Nations in New York, prior to which he was senior academic officer in the UNU Peace and Governance Programme, Tokyo. He also served in the Executive Office of the United Nations Secretary-General as a speechwriter for Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali. A former Fellow at the Harvard University Department of Philosophy and Harvard Law School, the United States Institute of Peace, Washington, D.C., and New York University School of Law, Coicaud has held appointments with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the European Parliament (Financial Committee), the University of Paris-I Sorbonne and the Ecole normale supérieure, Paris. His books include Power in Transition: The Peaceful Change of International Order (co-authored with Charles A. Kupchan, Emanuel Adler, and Yuen Foong Khong) (2001), Legitimacy and Politics: A Contribution to the Study of Political Right and Political Responsibility (Cambridge University Press, 2002), and Beyond the National Interest (2007).

The United Nations University is an organ of the United Nations established by the General Assembly in 1972 to be an international community of scholars engaged in research, advanced training, and the dissemination of knowledge related to the pressing global problems of human survival, development, and welfare. Its activities focus mainly on the areas of peace and governance, environment and sustainable development, and science and technology in relation to human welfare. The University operates through a worldwide network of research and postgraduate training centers, with its planning and coordinating headquarters in Tokyo.

Ethics in Action


Edited by

Daniel A. Bell                 Jean-Marc Coicaud
Tsinghua University, Beijing    United Nations University

Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo

Cambridge University Press
32 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10013-2473, USA
Information on this title:

© Cambridge University Press 2007

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception
and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,
no reproduction of any part may take place without
the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2007

Printed in the United States of America

A catalog record for this publication is available from the British Library.

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Ethics in action : the ethical challenges of international human rights
nongovernmental organizations / edited by Daniel A. Bell, Jean-Marc Coicaud.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN-13: 978-0-521-86566-1 (hardback)
ISBN-10: 0-521-86566-2 (hardback)
ISBN-13: 978-0-521-68449-1 (pbk.)
ISBN-10: 0-521-68449-8 (pbk.)
1. Non-governmental organizations. 2. Human rights. 3. Political ethics.
I. Bell, Daniel (Daniel A.) II. Coicaud, Jean-Marc. III. Title.
JZ4850.E84    2006
323.0601 – dc22    2006007800

ISBN-13 978-0-521-86566-1 hardback
ISBN-10 0-521-86566-2 hardback

ISBN-13 978-0-521-68449-1 paperback
ISBN-10 0-521-68449-8 paperback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for
the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or
third-party Internet Web sites referred to in this publication
and does not guarantee that any content on such
Web sites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

From Daniel A. Bell
To my mother and Anthony

From Jean-Marc Coicaud
To Didier Louvel


Acknowledgments page ix
List of Contributors xi
Introduction: Reflections on Dialogues between Practitioners and Theorists of Human Rights 1
Daniel A. Bell  
1   The Pornography of Poverty: A Cautionary Fundraising Tale 23
    Betty Plewes and Rieky Stuart  
2   An Imperfect Process: Funding Human Rights – A Case Study 38
    Mona Younis  
3   Transformational Development as the Key to Housing Rights 54
    Steven Weir  
4   Human Rights INGOs and the North–South Gap: The Challenge of Normative and Empirical Learning 79
    Bonny Ibhawoh  
5   Dilemmas Facing NGOs in Coalition-Occupied Iraq 99
    Lyal S. Sunga  
6   Human Rights in Action: Supporting Human Rights Work in Authoritarian Countries 117
    Birgit Lindsnæs, Hans-Otto Sano, and Hatla Thelle  
7   Driving without a Map: Implementing Legal Projects in China Aimed at Improving Human Rights 132
    Sophia Woodman  
8   Normative Compliance and Hard Bargaining: INGOs and China’s Response to International Human Rights Criticism 151
    Sun Zhe  
9   Defending Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights: Practical Issues Faced by an International Human Rights Organization 169
    Kenneth Roth  
10   Thinking through Social and Economic Rights 181
    Neera Chandhoke  
    Response to the Critique of Neera Chandhoke 198
    Kenneth Roth  
    A Final Response to Kenneth Roth 201
    Neera Chandhoke  
11   Amnesty International and Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights 204
    Curt Goering  
12   Moral Priorities for International Human Rights NGOs 218
    Thomas Pogge  
13   The Problem of Doing Good in a World That Isn’t: Reflections on the Ethical Challenges Facing INGOs 257
    Joseph H. Carens  
    Respect and Disagreement: A Response to Joseph Carens 273
    Thomas Pogge  
Conclusion: INGOs as Collective Mobilization of Transnational Solidarity: Implications for Human Rights Work at the United Nations 279
Jean-Marc Coicaud  
Index 303


This book emerged from a multiyear international project, Ethics in Action: The Successes, Compromises, and Setbacks of International Human Rights Nongovernmental Organizations (INGOs), sponsored by the United Nations University, headquartered in Tokyo with centers around the world, and the City University of Hong Kong. The project took the form of dialogues between high-level representatives of INGOs and academic theorists who work on the subject of human rights. The editors are grateful to Geneviève Souillac, Joseph Carens, and Joanne Bauer, who helped to conceptualize the project in its early stages.

   Project participants were asked to think about how INGOs deal with the ethical challenges they experience during the course of their work, how they ought to deal with those challenges and then to draw implications for human rights INGO work at the United Nations. We organized three workshops that dealt with those respective themes. The first workshop was held at the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs in New York (February 2002) and consisted of papers by high-level human rights INGO practitioners, with comments by theorists of human rights. The second, at the City University of Hong Kong (October 2003), consisted of papers by human rights theorists, with comments by practitioners. The third, at the United Nations University (UNU) in New York (August 2005), was a brainstorming session with human rights practitioners and theorists. We are indebted to the host organizations in New York and Hong Kong.

   The chapters of this book were initially presented and discussed at these workshops. During the workshops, the papers were submitted to rigorous scrutiny and critical questioning by workshop participants. The editors encouraged further exchanges among participants, and most chapters were shaped by these exchanges. We are especially grateful to the human rights practitioners and theorists who participated in the workshops: John Ambler, Robert Arsenault, Michael Barnhart, Christian Barry, Joanne Bauer, Widney Brown, Joseph Carens, Neera Chandhoke, C. Y. Chong, Ci Jiwei, David Cingranelli, Allison Cohen, Larry Cox, Eric Dachy, Michael Davis, Michael Dowdle, Christopher Drake, Michael Edwards, Fan Ruiping, Basil Fernando, Andre Frankovits, Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, Curt Goering, Jennifer Green, Hahm Chaibong, Niel Hicks, John Hirsh, Ian Holliday, Sharon Hom, Bonny Ihbawoh, Tatsuo Inoue, Lakshmi Jacota, Brian Joseph, Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, Shulamith Koenig, Will Kymlicka, Linda Li, Ram Mannikalingam, Julie Mertus, Ravi Nair, Ndubisi Obiorah, William Pace, Betty Plewes, Thomas Pogge, Ken Roth, Edward Rubin, Hans-Otto Sano, Joe Saunders, Rieky Stuart, Pisawat Sukonthapan, Kevin Sullivan, Sun Zhe, Lyal Sunga, Julia Tao, Hatla Thelle, Frank Upham, Alex de Waal, Steven Weir, Sophia Woodman, Mona Younis, and Zhang Qianfan. We are grateful that workshop participants showed willingess to go beyond traditional professional and disciplinary boundaries. The theorists showed willingness to think in practical terms, and the practitioners showed willingness to think in theoretical terms. It is worth noting, however, that the distinction between theorist and practitioner is not always easy to make. Whatever their professional label, we found that most individuals do both. The practitioners often think about normative issues, and the academics often think about implementation.

   The project would not have been possible without the financial support of the United Nations University, the City University of Hong Kong (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences), and a generous grant from the Open Society Institute. We are grateful to Ramesh Thakur, Senior Vice-Rector of the UNU, and to Professor Matthew Chen, (then) dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and (then) head of the Department of Public and Social Administration, and Professor Ian Holliday at the City University of Hong Kong for helping to secure this funding. We express our appreciation to individuals who offered their time and effort to make the workshops possible. At the United Nations University, Tokyo, we would like to thank Yoshie Sawada, senior administrative assistant, in the UNU Peace and Governance Programme, and Geneviève Souillac, then academic programme associate in the Peace and Governance Programme. At the City University of Hong Kong, we would like to thank Louisa Lui as well as H. L. Chan, Mon Chin, Vivine Chow, Ivan Fong, Antony Ou, Cherry Tsang, and Kenneth Yu. At the Carnegie Council, we thank Joanne Bauer and Jess Messer.

   We are grateful for the help and efficiency of our editor at Cambridge University Press, John Berger. Scott McQuade, head of UNU Press, was also very helpful in facilitating the cooperation between the two presses. The editors and authors are also very grateful to Jibecke Jönsson for her help in overseeing the editing process on the UNU side. We are also grateful for the insightful reports of three anonymous referees for Cambridge University Press.

   Finally, we would like to thank our family members who kindly and patiently allowed us to work on this project. In particular, Daniel Bell would like to thank Bing and Julien.

List of Contributors

Daniel A. Bell is professor in the Department of Philosophy, Tsinghua University (Beijing). His latest book is Beyond Liberal Democracy: Political Thinking for an East Asian Context (Princeton University Press, 2006) and his coedited collections include (with Hahm Chaibong) Confucianism for the Modern World (Cambridge University Press, 2003) and (with Joanne R. Bauer) The East Asian Challenge for Human Rights (Cambridge University Press, 1999).

Joseph H. Carens is professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto. He is the author of Culture, Citizenship and Community (Oxford, 2000), three other books, and more than fifty journal articles or chapters in books. Carens is currently writing a book on the ethics of immigration.

Neera Chandhoke is professor in the Department of Political Science and the director of the Developing Countries Research Center at the University of Delhi. She is currently working on a book, A State of One’s Own: Secessionist Movements in India, and is directing a Ford-funded project, Globalisation and the State in Media. Publications include The Conceits of Civil Society (Oxford University Press, 2003) and Beyond Secularism: The Rights of Religious Minorities (Oxford University Press, 1999).

Jean-Marc Coicaud heads the United Nations University (UNU) Office at the United Nations in New York. Coicaud’s former positions include being a member of former UN Secretary-General Dr. Boutros Boutrous-Ghali’s speech-writing team and fellowships at Harvard University, the United States Institute of Peace, and New York University School of Law. Sample publications include Legitimacy and Politics: A Contribution to the Study of Political Right and Political Responsibility (Cambridge University Press, 2002) and Beyond the National Interest (USIP Press, 2006).

Curt Goering is the senior deputy executive director and chief operating officer of Amnesty International USA (AI USA). Goering has a long background with AI USA, AI’s world headquarters in London, and several field assignments worldwide. He has also been the delegate to seven International Council Meetings, Amnesty International’s highest decision-making body.

Bonny Ibhawoh is assistant professor of history and social justice at Brock University in Canada. He was previously a Human Rights Fellow at the Danish Institute for Human Rights, Copenhagen, and the Carnegie Council for Ethics and International Affairs, New York. He is the author of the book Imperialism and Human Rights (State University of New York Press Human Rights Series, forthcoming).

Birgit Lindsnæs has been the deputy director general at the Danish Institute for Human Rights and the director of the International Department since 1991. She was previously with the Danish Red Cross, the Institute for Anthropology at the University of Copenhagen, and Danish Amnesty International. Lindsnæs is the chair of the Board for International Service for Human Rights in Geneva and chair of the work group on global public goods and human rights.

Betty Plewes is the former president-CEO of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, the umbrella body for Canadian development nongovernmental organizations. She consults on development policy and organizational development and has a long-standing interest in policy issues.

Thomas Pogge has, since receiving his Ph.D. in philosophy from Harvard, been teaching moral and political philosophy and Kant at Columbia University. He is currently a Professorial Research Fellow at the Australian National University Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics.

Kenneth Roth has been the executive director of Human Rights Watch, the largest U.S.-based international human rights organization, since 1993. From 1987 to 1993, Roth served as deputy director of the organization. Previously, he was a federal prosecutor in New York and Washington, D.C., and a private litigator. He has written more than eighty articles and chapters on a wide range of human rights topics.

Hans-Otto Sano, director of research for the Danish Institute for Human Rights, Copenhagen, has a background in history and development studies. Sano holds a Ph.D. in economic history with the subject specialization in human rights and development. He is currently involved in research projects on rights-based development and global governance.

Rieky Stuart is the former executive director of Oxfam Canada. She consults on international development and is currently a Fellow at the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto.

Sun Zhe received his doctorate from Columbia University and is now professor and deputy director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai. Sun is the author or editor of several books on comparative politics and U.S.-China relations. He is considered one of the leading scholars in the field of American studies in China.

Lyal S. Sunga, currently senior lecturer and director of research at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, in Lund, Sweden, taught at the Hong Kong University Faculty of Law and served as director of the Master of Laws Programme in Human Rights from 2001 to 2005. From 1994 to 2001, he worked as human rights officer for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland. Sunga has lectured at academic institutes and conducted human rights training in some thirty countries.

Hatla Thelle has a Ph.D. in Chinese studies and is senior researcher at the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) in Copenhagen. Since 1980, she has taught modern Chinese history at the University of Copenhagen and has been working on human rights projects and research at the DIHR since 1997. She has specifically researched protection of social rights and social policy reform in China.

Steven Weir is Area Vice President, Asia Pacific, Habitat for Humanity International in Bangkok, Thailand, and is responsible for supporting affordable housing programs throughout Asia and the South Pacific. Weir is a registered architect and has been involved in community-based design and housing in the Pacific Rim for more than thirty years. Weir has written numerous papers on affordable urban housing, the most recent, which was presented at the 2006 United Nations World Urban Forum on “Community Based Disaster Response – Only One Component of an Effective Shelter Framework,” reviewing the Asia tsunami response.

Sophia Woodman researches Chinese law, politics, and human rights at the University of Hong Kong and worked for many years in an international nongovernmental organization. Recent publications include “Human Rights as ‘Foreign Affairs’: China’s Reporting under Human Rights Treaties,” Hong Kong Law Journal 35, pt. 1, 2005; and “Bilateral Aid to Improve Human Rights,” China Perspectives no. 51 (January–February 2004).

Mona Younis is human rights program officer at the Mertz Gilmore Foundation in New York. From 2000 to 2005, she served as coordinator of the International Human Rights Funders Group. She is a founding board member of the Fund for Global Human Rights, Washington, D.C., and the Arab Human Rights Fund, Beirut. She received a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California at Berkeley in 1996.

printer iconPrinter friendly version AddThis