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Amnesty International: Notes for UPSC Exam

Amnesty International (commonly known as Amnesty and AI) is a non-governmental organization that works for the upliftment of human rights and has a supporter list of close to 7 million around the world. There are members of Amnesty International in more than 140 countries and territories around the world.

AI throws light on human rights violations by governments, armed political groups, companies, etc., via different sources like newsletters, annual reports, and background papers. This topic is relevant for all IAS exam aspirants.

Why in the news?

As of September 2020, Amnesty International has stopped all its human rights operations in India post-Indian government froze its bank accounts. Read the entire issue in brief on BYJU’S September CNA – 30th September.

The candidates can read more related information from the links provided below:

Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) Difference between NGOs and SHGs
ARC Reports for UPSC International Organizations’ Reports
Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations Global Indices and India’s Rankings

Amnesty International (AI)

  • Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for human rights.
  • Its members give freely of their time and energy in solidarity with the victims of human rights violations.
  • It is a campaigning organization.
  • It researches, documents and reports on human rights abuses, but its work does not end there.
  • AI members take practical, effective action to stop these abuses.
  • Amnesty International is organised to make it possible for ordinary people to speak up – to protest on behalf of other human beings who are in danger.
  • The work of Amnesty International is built upon international solidarity.
  • Its members come from many different cultures and backgrounds, with widely different beliefs, united by a determination to work for a world where everyone enjoys human rights.

When was Amnesty International formed?

The Amnesty International was formed in July 1961, in London, United Kingdom by the lawyers-Peter Benenson and Philip James. Amnesty draws attention to human rights abuses and campaigns for compliance with international laws and standards. It works to mobilize public opinion to generate pressure on governments where abuse takes place.

The PIB Summary and Analysis page is important for a better understanding of government initiatives and announcements. Visit the page now!!

The following links will complement your UPSC preparation:

How is Amnesty International Structured?

  • Amnesty International is largely made up of voluntary members but retains a small number of paid professionals. In countries in which Amnesty International has a strong presence, members are organized as “sections”. Sections co-ordinate basic Amnesty International activities normally with a significant number of members, some of whom will form into “groups”, and professional staff.
  • They also co-ordinate basic activities but have a smaller membership and limited staff.
  • In countries where no section or structure exists, people can become “international members”.
  • Two other organizational models exist: “international networks”, which promote specific themes or have a specific identity, and “affiliated groups”, which do the same work as section groups but in isolation.
  • The organization is headed by a secretary-general for its day to day functions.

The following table gives a list of the secretary-general (s) over the years.

Secretary-General (s) of Amnesty International
Name Tenure Country of Origin
Peter Benenson 1961-1966 Britain
Eric Baker 1966-1968 Britain
Martin Ennals 1968-1980 Britain
Thomas Hammarberg 1980-1986 Sweden
Ian Martin 1986-1992 Britain
Pierre Sané 1992-2001 Senegal
Irene Khan 2001-2010 Bangladesh
Salil Shetty 2010-2018 India
Kumi Naidoo 2018-2020 South Africa
Julie Verhaar 2020-2021 (Acting)
Agnès Callamard 2021-present France

What is the objective of Amnesty International?

The main objective of Amnesty International is to conduct rigorous research and initiate measures to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights and to provide justice for the deprived section of the community.

The movement is organised to make it possible for ordinary people to speak up – to protest on behalf of other human beings who are at risk of abuse.

Daily News

What are the areas of work looked into by Amnesty International?

The major areas that are covered by Amnesty International include –

  1. Women’s, children’s, minorities’ and indigenous rights
  2. Ending torture
  3. Abolition of the death penalty
  4. Rights of refugees
  5. Rights of prisoners of conscience
  6. Protection of human dignity.

Vision of Amnesty International

  • Its vision is of a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.
  • In pursuit of this vision, AI’s mission is to undertake research and action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of the rights to physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and expression, and freedom from discrimination, within the context of its work to promote all human rights.

  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights sets out the human rights which are fundamental to the dignity and development of every human being. 
  • These include political rights, such as freedom of opinion, expression and association; economic rights, such as the right to work and to an adequate standard of living; civil rights, such as equality before the law and the right to marriage; and social or cultural rights, such as the right to education and to participate in the cultural life of the community. 
  • It is the responsibility of every government of every state in the world to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of all people in their territory. 
  • AI aims to put pressure on governments to accept and act on this responsibility. 

To know more, read about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from the linked article. 

Guiding Principles of Amnesty International

All AI’s work is guided by the principles of:

  • International solidarity,
  • Effective action for the individual victim,
  • Global coverage,
  • Universality and indivisibility of human rights,
  • Impartiality and independence,
  • Democracy and mutual respect.

Candidates can familiarise themselves with the exam pattern by visiting the UPSC Syllabus page. For more UPSC related preparation materials and articles, visit the links given in the table below:

Related Links:

UPSC Calendar 2023 UPSC Political Science & International Relations (PSIR) Optional Syllabus
India Year Book – 5 Things to Know IAS Eligibility
UPSC Books In Hindi For Civil Services/IAS Exam UPSC Mains Answer Writing Practice 2023
UPSC Mains GS-II Strategy, Structure & Syllabus IAS Mock Tests
FAQ on UPSC IAS 2023 for Beginners IAS Interview Questions


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