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Power and Principle

Human Rights Programming in International Organizations

The UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has instructed all UN specialized agencies and other affiliated organizations to consider how their work might advance the cause of human rights around the world. Many of these bodies have taken this call to heart, with a wide range of intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) trying to play a more active role in promoting human welfare.

Power and Principle is a comparative study of how and why IGOs integrate human rights standards into their development operations. It focuses on the process of policy innovation in three UN-related IGOs: the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF,) the World Bank, and the World Health Organization (WHO). In his comprehensive analysis, Joel E. Oestreich uses case studies to demonstrate how their policies have evolved during the past two decades to reflect important human rights considerations.

Drawing on interviews with dozens of staffers from IGOs, Oestreich creates a gripping narrative of the inner workings of these large bureaucracies. In each study he describes how the organization first became interested in human rights standards, how these standards were adopted as a priority, how the organization defined rights in the context of their work, and what a rights-based approach has meant in practice. The book argues that IGOs ought to be seen as capable of meaningful agency in international politics, and describes the nature of that agency. It concludes with an examination of these organizations and their ethical responsibilities as actors on the world stage.

About the Author

Joel E. Oestreich is an assistant professor of political science at Drexel University. He has also worked as a consultant to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Endorsements

"In Power and Principle, Joel Oestreich tackles an important aspect of intergovernmental organizations (IGOs)—how and why international organizations take up 'principled ideas'—that has not been given sufficient attention in the field of international organizations, providing a rich and detailed analysis of the different forces at work inside and out of today's IGOs. Clear, concise and thoughtful, anyone interested in the changing role and agency of international organizations in contemporary international relations should have this book."—James P. Muldoon Jr., senior fellow, Division of Global Affairs, Rutgers-Newark

"Power and Principle sets high standards for clarity, effective organization, and graceful writing. Oestreich very ably scrutinizes policy formation within UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and the World Bank showing the independence of international organizations in pursuing a human rights agenda. The author thereby demonstrates the potential for advancing human rights by relying on solid social science analysis attentive to current standards of research methodology and comparative institutional analysis while unafraid of attending to normative issues."—Richard Pierre Claude, founding editor, Human Rights Quarterly

"Joel Oestreich asks us to think about why and how actors in international organizations sometimes swim against the tide to embed principled ideas in their work. This thought-provoking book shows why neither this process nor its inherent merit can be taken for granted. A must read for students of human rights and of international organizations."—R. Charli Carpenter, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh

 

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