Elisabeth Jay Friedman is Assistant Professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco and the author of Unfinished Transitions: Women and the Gendered Development of Democracy in Venezuela, 1936–1996.
Kathryn Hochstetler is Associate Professor of Political Science at Colorado State University.
Ann Marie Clark is Associate Professor of Political Science at Purdue University and the author of Diplomacy of Conscience: Amnesty International and Changing Human Rights Norms.
Diplomacy of Conscience traces Amnesty International's efforts to strengthen both popular human rights awareness and international law against torture, disappearances, and political killings. Drawing on primary interviews and archival research, Ann Marie Clark posits that Amnesty International's strenuously cultivated objectivity gave the group political independence and allowed it to be critical of all governments violating human rights. Its capacity to investigate abuses and interpret them according to international standards helped it foster consistency and coherence in new human rights law.
Generalizing from this study, Clark builds a theory of the autonomous role of nongovernmental actors in the emergence of international norms pitting moral imperatives against state sovereignty. Her work is of substantial historical and theoretical relevance to those interested in how norms take shape in international society, as well as anyone studying the increasing visibility of nongovernmental organizations on the international scene.
The authors present a multilevel analysis encompassing institutions and individuals within the government—at national, state, and local levels—as well as the activists, interest groups, and nongovernmental organizations that operate outside formal political channels. They emphasize the importance of networks linking committed actors in the government bureaucracy with activists in civil society. Portraying a gradual process marked by periods of rapid advance, Hochstetler and Keck show how political opportunities have arisen from major political transformations such as the transition to democracy and from critical events, including the well-publicized murders of environmental activists in 1988 and 2004. Rather than view foreign governments and organizations as the instigators of environmental policy change in Brazil, the authors point to their importance at key moments as sources of leverage and support.