As an independent national human rights institution the German Institute for Human Rights is an institution of civil society. It was established as an independent association on March 8, 2001, after the German Federal Parliament (Deutscher Bundestag) had, on December 7, 2000, taken the unanimous decision to set up a German Institute for Human Rights. The decision itself was the result of several years of deliberations and discussions at various levels of society. The institute is based on the "Paris Principles" for National Human Rights Institutions adopted by the United Nations in 1993. The institute aims to promote and protect human rights by pursuing the following activities: information, documentation, applied research, human rights education, advising representatives of politics and society in general, participation in relevant debates, as well as cooperation at the national and international level.
Human rights are grounded in human dignity. This human characteristic is not a result of personal achievement or societal agreement. Rather, human dignity demands unconditional respect. All human beings are therefore endowed with this quality in equal measure - independently of the colour of their skin, their sex, religion, ideology, political or other convictions, ethnic or social origin, citizenship, genetic characteristics, membership in a national minority, wealth, birth, disability, sexual identity, age etc. Human rights constitute the political and legal recognition and protection of human dignity. As all people are entitled to equal respect for their dignity, human rights are universal rights – cutting across the differences between regions, cultures, religions, or ideologies. The evolution of human rights can be seen as a process unfolding in response to experience of injustice.
Civil and political as well as economic, social and cultural rights are inseparably interconnected. They are both the goal and the fundamental principles of the development of humane and free living conditions all over the world. Human rights derive their potency as legally binding norms from national constitutions and international conventions. For the work carried out by the German Institute for Human Rights, the human rights conventions of the United Nations, the European system for the protection of human rights, as well as the basic rights guarantees enshrined in the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany are particularly relevant.
The institute contributes to the promotion and the protection of human rights by means of studies, documentations, academic research projects, library services, public seminars, educational programmes, expert discussions, as well as offering policy advice on the question of human rights in the context of domestic and international policies. The institute also plays an active role in the process of shaping public opinion on all issues relevant to the question of human rights. In addition, the institute sees itself as a forum for the exchange of ideas and information between governmental institutions and non-governmental organizations, both at home and abroad. It maintains contacts with other national human rights institutions in Europe and internationally. Apart from this, the institute functions as a national coordinator for human rights education. This kind of education aims to disseminate knowledge and information about human rights as well as to sensitize people to this issue and to enable them to get involved practically and thus contributing to the prevention of human rights violations.
Human rights concern everybody. They can have a lasting effect only if they are supported by a sufficiently large share of the people. This is why the German Institute for Human Rights directs many of its activities at the general public. In particular, the institute targets persons and organizations dealing with human rights issues as part of their work in government, business, science, society and non-governmental organizations. The projects on human rights education are primarily aimed at disseminators of information who act as intermediaries between experts and members of the general public. Through their work, they can help to increase people's ability to stand up for their rights.
Human rights create a basic consensus that can integrate the diversity of religious or ideological convictions, cultural backgrounds and political orientations that may exist in society. The German Institute for Human Rights is committed to this kind of diversity. Any institute that adopts as its goal the promotion and protection of human rights must also accept that it will be judged by the extent to which its internal structure, as well as its projects and products, reflect the determined and consistent compliance with human rights principles. An important indicator in this regard is the implementation of anti-discrimination norms, especially the achievement of gender equality.
The history of human rights is inseparably intertwined with the experience of grave injustice and people's fight against such injustice. In its preamble, the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 speaks of "barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind". Above all, this is a reference to the crimes of the Nazi regime. The German Institute for Human Rights views the efforts to keep the memory alive of the immoral and unjust regimes of the past as an important source of today's human rights work. It is in this sense that it feels a strong connection with organizations that honour the victims of the Nazi terror regime but also with those who keep alive the memory of the victims of East Germany’s communist dictatorship.
Adopted by the Board of Trustees on June 16, 2004.