International Federation for Human Rights

FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) is an international human rights NGO federating 192 organisations from 117 countries. Since 1922, FIDH has been defending all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Our work

For FIDH, transforming societies relies on the work of local actors. Therefore, FIDH’s activities aim to reinforce their capacities and their influence.

It acts at national, regional and international levels in support of its member and partner organisations to address human rights abuses and consolidate democratic processes. Its work is directed at States and those in power, such as armed opposition groups and multinational corporations. Its primary beneficiaries are national human rights organisations who are members of FIDH, and through them, the victims of human rights violations. FIDH also cooperates with other local partner organisations and actors of change.

Our mandate: Protect all rights

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) is an international NGO. It defends all human rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural – as contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Our commitment: Three pillars of action

FIDH acts in conjunction with its member and partner organisations. Its actions are founded on three strategic pillars: securing the freedom and capacity to act for human rights defenders, the universality of rights and their effectiveness.

Guiding principle: The accountability of all

FIDH’s work is directed at States as primary human rights guarantors. However, it also addresses non-State actors such as armed groups and multinational corporations. FIDH is committed to holding individual perpetrators of international crimes to account through the international criminal justice system.

Ethics: Independence and objectivity

FIDH is a non partisan, non sectarian, apolitical and not for profit organisation. Its secretariat is headquartered in France, where FIDH is a recognised NGO. FIDH’s independence, expertise and objectivity are the hallmarks of its credibility. It maintains this by acting with complete transparency.

Interaction: Local presence - global action

As a federal movement, FIDH operates on the basis of interaction with its member organisations. It ensures that FIDH merges on-the-ground experience and knowledge with expertise in international law, mechanisms of protection and intergovernmental bodies. This unique combination translates into joint actions between FIDH and its member organisations at national, regional and international levels to remedy human rights violations and consolidate processes of democratisation. It makes FIDH highly representational and legitimate.

A system of governance: Universality and transparency

FIDH’s structure and operations place its member organisations at the heart of the decision making process and reflect its principles of governance.

Proven expertise

FIDH using a wide range of methods that have proven successful: urgent responses, both public and confidential; investigative missions, judicial observation, and legal defence; political dialogue, advocacy, legal action, public awareness campaigns. The organisation relies on a network of international volunteer mission delegates and facilitates exchange among human rights defenders around the world in order to reinforce their expertise. It constantly evaluates its activities in view of becoming more efficient and regularly adjusts its short, medium and long term objectives as necessary.

Our history

Landmark achievements

  • 1922 - 1948

    1922: FIDH is founded by some twenty national organisations on the initiative of French and German member organisations. It is the first international human rights organisation. Its motto is: “Peace for human rights.

    1927: FIDH proposes the creation of an “International declaration of human rights” and an International Criminal Court.

    1936: FIDH adopts an additional declaration touching, in particular, on the rights of mothers, children and the elderly, the right to work and to social security, leisure and an education.

    1940: FIDH joins the fight against Nazism. Its chairman, Victor Basch, is assassinated by members of the Vichy government militia in Lyon.

  • 1949 - 1988

    Dispersed or forced underground during the Second World War, FIDH reforms after the war and develops its human rights activities. It launches its first fact-finding missions and judicial observation missions. FIDH’s positions are supported by accounts gathered from victims by its officials on mission. Two of its most eminent leaders, René Cassin and Joseph-Paul Boncour, help draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. During the 1980s, FIDH expands its field of activities, particularly within the United Nations. Its fact-finding missions become more diverse and are supplemented by more intensive activism within international organisations.

  • 1989 - 2010

    The 1990s:
    The fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War mark a major step forward in the development of national human rights NGOs across the world. FIDH supports this development within the framework of legal cooperation programmes in political transition contexts in Eastern Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Middle East, and Latin America. The number of FIDH member organisations increases from 66 to more than 100. In 1990, FIDH brings together, in Prague, for the first time, all of its members and partners from Eastern Europe, who are finally free from dictatorship. In 1997, it holds its first International Conference in a southern country, in Dakar. This conference underlines the urgent need to combat the flagrant human rights violations resulting from economic globalisation.

2001: FIDH holds its conference in Morocco. The application of the principle of responsibility to perpetrators of human rights violations, whether states, companies, institutions or individuals, lies at the heart of the movement’s actions. During this conference, the first chair of FIDH from a southern country - the Senegalese lawyer Sidiki Kaba is elected.

2002: The International Criminal Court enters into force. It is the culmination of one of FIDH’s longest campaigns.

2003: The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian lawyer and long-standing partner of FIDH, honouring the day-to-day commitment to victims shown by human rights defenders.

2004: CCR, FIDH’s new American affiliate organisation, files a complaint in Germany against Donald Rumsfeld, former US Secretary of Defense, for torture and mistreatment at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib; the proceedings are to last 4 years and become one of FIDH’s landmark cases in the field of human rights compliance in the fight against terrorism.

2006: FIDH takes a public stand against the execution of the former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, and deplores the fact that a historic opportunity to judge the crimes of Saddam Hussein according to the principles of a fair trial turned into a parody of justice.

2007: A complaint for torture and maltreatment in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib is lodged against the former American Secretary of State for Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, in an attempt to combat high-level impunity. The same year, Souhayr Belhassen, a Tunisian journalist and human rights defender, becomes the first woman (what’s more, an Arab/Muslim woman) elected as the chair of FIDH.

2008: The year 2008 is a turning point for the death penalty: the UN adopts a universal moratorium on the death penalty and it is abolished by Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Togo is to follow their example in 2009, as a result of ongoing action by FIDH and its member organisations. In 2008, unprecedented events mark the campaign for international justice that FIDH has been fighting for years: FIDH and its Member Organisations win some great victories, such as the opening of the ICC’s first case involving the Central African Republic; new charges of gender-related crimes are filed against certain Congolese defendants by the ICC prosecutor; Senegalese law is aligned with the Statute of Rome and with international human rights conventions; a Tunisian vice-consul is convicted of acts of torture. But universal justice remains a challenge, as does the need to protect those exercising their rights in national and international courts. The conviction of Alberto Fujimori and the 2009 arrest warrant issued by the ICC against the Sudanese president are also key victories. 2008 also sees the adoption of the optional protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which finally enables the victims of rights violations to seek individual remedy at the international level. This advance is the culmination of years of FIDH action in favour of full and fair recognition of economic, social and cultural rights for all. This step forward also comes at a time when economic globalisation is increasingly called into question and when debate is focused squarely on the responsibility of corporate actors, particularly multinational organisations. FIDH calls for economic relations to incorporate human rights and for all stakeholders, including Governments, businesses and financial institutions, to be held to account for their actions.

2008-2009: FIDH’s campaign for women’s rights also bears fruit, with the European Union adopting guidelines on women’s rights, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) ratifying the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa in February, followed by Cameroon in May. In April, Burkina Faso adopts a law on quotas, requiring lists of candidates for National Assembly and municipal elections to include at least 30% women and in December, Uganda adopts legislation prohibiting female genital mutilation.

2009: On 4 March 2009, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issues an arrest warrant for the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir. This decision marks a crucial stage in the development of international justice. It is, in fact, the first time since its creation in 2002 that the ICC has issued an arrest warrant against a sitting president. FIDH was particularly committed to this brief: by performing fact-finding missions and calling for the United Nations Security Council to bring the matter before the ICC, it helped ensure the opening of an enquiry and the issuing of arrest warrants against the most senior members of the Sudanese government - including President Bashir.

2010: For the first time FIDH holds its World Congress in the Caucasus, in Armenia. The governing bodies now comprise 19 nationalities from all continents, and over 40 % women. There are now 178 member organisations.>

  • 2011-2015

    Throughout the Arab Spring, FIDH does its utmost to defend the rights of those in the countries involved. In Libya, for example, it is responsible for ensuring that human rights are a central plank of the transitional regime’s reforms.

    2011: FIDH secures the release of political prisoners in Burma, and contributes to securing partial openness from the authorities.

    2012: FIDH celebrates its 90th anniversary. This year, it carries out 60 fact-finding missions, judicial observation missions and appeals. It welcomes the increasing number of victories it is winning throughout the world.

Our member organisations

FIDH brings together 192 national human rights NGOs, in 117 coutries, on 5 continents.

Being an FIDH member organisation means:

1/ Sharing the values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; a code of ethics based on a commitment to independence, objectivity and rigorous factchecking methodologies;

2/ Uniting for greater strength and to cultivate alliances in order to generate changeat local, regional and international levels;

3/ Breaking isolation to better protect human rights defenders;

4/ Sharing experience, best practices and expertise among member organisations.