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As we contemplate the work of Human Rights Watch over the past year, we are struck by how pivotal a moment it is for the human rights movement. We now have the first opportunity since the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials to build an international system of justice for the most culpable human rights offenders, but this opportunity risks being squandered unless the major powers are willing to arrest those indicted for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The growth of the global economy promises new prosperity, but it leaves Western governments hesitant to promote human rights for fear of jeopardizing their trade and investment opportunities, and it confronts multinational corporations with novel questions about human rights practices in their overseas operations. Freedoms of speech and association are blossoming in many parts of the world, and with them an increasingly active human rights community, yet growing isolationism in the West threatens to abandon this emerging but vulnerable civil society.
Human Rights Watch has an essential part to play in meeting these challenges. With mounting frequency, victims of abuse and local activists voices are heard in the corridors of power worldwide. Our task is to overcome the arguments of opposition and indifference heard in the West, and to maintain and expand a strong global defense of fundamental human rights. Never before have we had such an important role to play.
Our investigations in war-torn and repressive countries harness the powerful weapon of truth by uncovering evidence of human rights crimes that governments prefer to keep hidden. Our reputation for insightful and reliable fact-finding ensures that our investigations receive broad international attention. Our tough advocacy and pointed recommendations allow us to be heard by the powers with influence to secure concrete improvements.
By working closely with a global network of human rights activists, we guarantee that the strategy behind these efforts is informed by the perspectives of the people whose rights we defend, and that this strategy is backed by the largest possible constituency.
As Human Rights Watch has gained in prominence, the demands on our limited resources have grown exponentially. As more people see what we can do to protect their rights, greater numbers entrust us with that charge. We welcome this confidence and are moved by the responsibility we bear. But we know all too well that we are a small group of individuals facing large and powerful adversaries. Our advantage is that truth and justice are on our side.
We could not begin to hold the line on these forces of repression without the consistent and growing generosity of our loyal supporters as well as the many new men and women who are drawn each year to our work. We, and the countless people worldwide on whose behalf we toil, are grateful for your belief in our cause. We are confident that together we can continue to make an important difference on behalf of the basic freedoms we cherish.
Robert L. Bernstein . Founding Chair
Kenneth Roth. Executive Director
by Human Rights Watch

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