The development of human rights policy during the 20th century was significantly influenced by the background and experiences of its protagonists. Yet, the relationship between biography and an engagement in human rights has remained significantly under-researched. This project aims to narrow this gap by conducting biographical interviews with human rights advocates, providing commentary on the interviews, and making them available to the public.
In this way, the project will establish a body of sources which situates an engagement with human rights in a biographical context, thereby expanding our understanding of how human rights became a central component of international politics in the 20th century. How do human rights advocates reflect on their own careers? What experiences do they view as important and how do they interpret those experiences? How do they assess their own commitment to human rights?
The selection of interviewees was not driven by the desire to obtain insider-information about particular processes and events. For instance, the project will not necessarily interview those who, because of their position, had specific insights into decision making processes that were significant to the development of human rights policies. Rather, the project gives voice to representatives of NGOs, judges, activists, employees of international organizations like the UN, and politicians who advocated for human rights over a longer period of time, and who understand this commitment to be an important component of their life’s work.
The transcribed interviews were lightly edited and the finished results were authorized by the respondents. References to specific people or events are explained in the footnotes.