The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) is a non-governmental federation for human rights organizations. Founded in 1922, FIDH is the oldest international human rights organization worldwide and today brings together 164 member organizations in over 100 countries.
FIDH is nonpartisan, nonsectarian, and independent of any government. Its core mandate is to promote respect for all the rights set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
FIDH co-ordinates and supports the actions of its members and is their contact with intergovernmental organizations.
FIDH was established in 1922, when it united ten national organizations. It is a federation of 164 human rights organizations in nearly 100 countries. Among which are the French Ligue des droits de l'homme (LDH) and the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights. FIDH coordinates and supports the activities of its member organizations, at the local, regional and international levels. Like its members, FIDH is not linked to any party or religion, and is independent. FIDH has a consultative status before the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe, and observer status before the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie and the International Labour Organization.
FIDH also has “regular contact” with the European Union, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Organization of American States, United Nations Development Programme, World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
FIDH's mandate “is to contribute to the respect of all the rights defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” It aims to make “effective improvements in the protection of victims, the prevention of Human Rights violations and the sanction of their perpetrators.” Its priorities are established by its World Congress and International Board (22 members) with the support of its International Secretariat (30 staff members).
FIDH’s total income in 2005 was €3,503,106 (nearly US$4.5m), of which €2,803,294 (over US$3.5m) came from “grants and donations,” comprising approximately 80% of its income. FIDH’s finances lack transparency, as funding sources are not itemized on its website or in financial statements, and no response was received to letters requesting this information. Instead, FIDH lists general figures and provides a financial summary: “FIDH relies heavily on donations from the public and from private businesses, contributions from its member organizations and on the commitment of its voluntary workers. It also receives grants from international and national bodies, and from foundations...”
Protecting human rights defenders: The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, FIDH’s joint program with the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), works for the implementation of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, and supports the mandates of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and the Special Rapporteur of the African Commission. The Observatory advocates for the establishment of new mechanisms for the protection of human rights defenders, for example, within the Council of Europe and the OSCE. In 2004, the FIDH/OMCT Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders addressed 1,154 cases, in over 90 countries, with the collaboration of approximately 200 Human Rights organisations. In 2005, the Observatory dealt with almost 850 cases, in approximately 60 countries, with the collaboration of about 400 human rights organizations, and sent 11 fact-finding and trial observation missions.
Justice for victims: fighting impunity: FIDH provides support and assistance to victims throughout their search for justice actions FIDH made a significant contribution to the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC), and in 2004 opened a permanent office at the ICC in The Hague. Currently, FIDH is involved in approximately 20 cases before domestic courts and the ICC, as well as in transitional justice processes in several countries. In 2005, FIDH transmitted the first applications by victims to participate in proceedings before the ICC, in relation to the investigation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This led to the first decision of the ICC in January 2006 focusing on the regime for the participation of victims before the Court, in which all the applications transmitted by FIDH were accepted.
Advocating respect for human rights in the context of globalization: FIDH seeks to ensure the protection of economic, social and cultural rights, the primacy of human rights over trade law and the participation of civil society in international economic organizations. FIDH aims to strengthen the social responsibilities of corporations through dialogue with transnational corporations as well as through litigation. In 2005, FIDH obtained public commitments from Carrefour (the second largest retailer worldwide) to comply with and promote international human rights law.
Defending women’s rights: FIDH campaigns against discrimination against women through its newly created Action Group for Women’s Rights, headed by Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize winner. The core aim of the movement is to work towards the effective implementation of the United Nations Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). In this context, in 2005, FIDH organized fact-finding missions, submitted alternative reports to the CEDAW Committee, and launched a regional campaign in the broader Middle East and North Africa.
Promoting respect for human rights in the context of counter-terrorism: Since 2002, FIDH has initiated and supported key proceedings before domestic courts, regional and international mechanisms, in cases concerning arbitrary measures and practices in the ‘fight against terrorism’. FIDH campaigns within IGOs for the implementation of procedures to prevent human rights abuses. In 2005, FIDH reinforced its cooperation with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) through supporting actions initiated by CCR, in particular in relation to Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. FIDH also contributed significantly to the finalization of the draft of International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
Monitoring and promoting human rights, assisting victims
: These activities, including fact-finding and trial observation missions, research, advocacy and litigation, are implemented by independent human rights experts from all regions. Between 2004 and 2005, FIDH published over 550 press statements and organized approximately 90 international fact-finding and trial observation missions in over 60 countries.
Mobilizing the international community
: FIDH provides guidance and support to its member organizations and other local partners in their interactions with international and regional inter-governmental organizations (IGOs). To ensure the effective implementation of these activities, FIDH has established delegations at the UN in Geneva and New York, at the European Union in Brussels and, since 2006, at the League of Arab States in Cairo. From 2004 to 2005, FIDH filed and supported over 500 cases before international IGOs. FIDH participates in standard-setting processes and promotes the establishment of monitoring mechanisms.
Supporting national NGOs and increasing their capacity
: FIDH, together with its members and partners, implements cooperation programs at the national level, aimed at strengthening the capacity of human rights organizations. FIDH provides training and assists in creating opportunities for dialogue with authorities. From 2004 to 2005, FIDH undertook such programs in 32 countries in Africa, 16 in Latin America, 3 in Asia and 10 in the North Africa/Middle Eastern region.
: informing, alerting, bearing witness: FIDH draws public attention to the outcomes of its missions, its research findings and eyewitness accounts of human rights violations, by means of press releases, press conferences, open letters, mission reports, urgent appeals, petitions, and the FIDH website. In 2005, internet traffic on www.fidh.org amounted to approximately 2 million pages visited, and 400 references to FIDH per day were calculated on websites based in over 100 countries.
FIDH has its headquarters in Paris. It relies primarily on a pool of dedicated volunteers. The organizational structure consists of elected boards and a small body of permanent staff who support the activities of the board members and the mission delegates.
Every three years, the FIDH Congress gathers together member organizations to elect the International Board, fix the priorities of the organization and decide whether to grant membership to new partners or to exclude member organizations which no longer satisfy the requirements laid down in the organization’s statutes.
The FIDH International Board reflects the diversity if its constituent organizations. It is composed of a President, Treasurer, 15 Vice-presidents and 5 Secretaries General, all of whom work on a voluntary basis and represent all regions of the world. Honorary Presidents have consultative status on the International Board. The International Board meets 3 times per year to define FIDH’s political and strategic orientations and to draw up and approve the budget.
The Executive Board is composed of the President, the Treasurer and the 5 Secretaries General, and is responsible for the management of FIDH on a daily basis. It also draws on the particular expertise of mission delegates. The Deputy Secretaries General, elected by the International Board, sit on the Executive Board with consultative status. This body meets once per month to take decisions on current concerns and requests submitted by member organizations.
The two Boards call on the expertise of other collaborators in FIDH’s activities, including the permanent delegates to intergovernmental organizations and the mission delegates. The team of mission delegates gathers together several hundred individuals from all regions.
The International Secretariat is based in Paris. It implements decisions taken by the International and Executive Boards and ensures regular support to member organizations. The Secretariat employs 30 permanent staff, assisted by interns and volunteers.