Content and structure
Scope and content (abstract)
The fonds contains correspondence, interoffice memos (fax and e-mail), administrative records, mission files, conference and seminar material, press releases, media monitoring materials, newsletters, reports and photographs, as well as electronic records.
The records in this fonds document 25 years of activities (1982-2007) of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF).
IHF was brought to life at the height of worsening US-Soviet relations, by representatives of eighteen Western European and North American countries at a conference in Bellaggio, Italy in September 1982. Its foundation was communicated at a press conference on November 9, during the CSCE meeting in Madrid. The underlying idea was to pull together, orchestrate and intensify the activities of already existing Helsinki monitors and other interest groups in monitoring human rights in the thirty-three signatory states, but first and foremost in the Soviet Union and its Communist allies who, despite having signed the Helsinki Final Act, did little to fulfill its prescriptions.
Backed also by US-based human rights NGOs, most prominently Helsinki Watch, the principal initiator of the foundation of IHF, this European watchdog organization exercised its role by organizing frequent consultations toward building a common strategy among its member committees on the one hand, and on the other, by submitting frequent inquiries and open letters to governments, releasing press statements and conducting fact-finding missions in the countries under their investigation. By embedding itself in CSCE negotiations and winning over the support of neutral and non-aligned delegations, IHF had a greater chance of effectively improving or at least influencing the human rights situation in those countries.
Arranged in several series by themes and document types, the fonds consists of materials on the overall human rights conditions in signatory countries to the Helsinki Final Act (country files), administrative records of the Vienna-based General Secretariat, including extensive correspondence and interoffice memos, files of the Executive Director(s), as well as IHF project and mission files, thematic reference files, OSCE-CSCE related documents, various IHF publications and reports, and finally photographs pertaining to IHF meetings and missions, and thematic sets from other human rights NGOs.