David P. Forsythe
A review of the literature in English on international human rights in the mid-1990s concluded among other things that more attention needed to be paid to state foreign policy and human rights, especially in comparative perspective. 1 At about the same time as that bibliographic essay appeared, an overview on human rights and foreign policy was published by a Dutch author which provided a useful primer. 2 Then a couple of years later a Canadian author published a study about whether human rights considerations affected the development politics of three industrialized states in their dealings with various lesser developed countries. 3 The present project marks a further step toward responding to the challenge of providing a relatively broad but reasonably detailed and advanced treatment of human rights and foreign policy in comparative perspective.
The subject is important. We live in an era in which there is much discourse about the demise of the state and the anachronism of state sovereignty. We chart the growth over time of intergovernmental organizations, many of which deal with human rights. We note the proliferation of private human rights groups, some of which are transnational in membership and scope of action. It has become commonplace to note the power and presumed independence of multinational or transnational corporations. The independent communications media are a factor of considerable importance. But the state remains central to all such developments. It is states that create intergovernmental organizations, defining their authority and perhaps loaning them some elements of power.