Human Rights Advocacy at Work: An Introduction, part 1 of 7

– How do you stop human rights violations? All around the globe we
see people victimized, exploited, targeted for discrimination, and denied opportunities. Often we feel powerless
to do anything about it. I’m Jo Becker, and I’m
a human rights advocate at Human Rights Watch. This is a video series about how people organize
to stop human rights abuses. In this series, you’ll meet advocates from Human Rights Watch who’ve worked to bring a former president to justice for war crimes. To advance the rights of some of the world’s most vulnerable workers. To end excessive prison
sentences for children, and to stop the killing of civilians in the Central African republic. They’ll describe how
they take on these issues and the strategies that they
use to make a difference. Human rights abuses are often about the abuse of power. Governments or rebel groups or even corporations taking advantage of their authority to deny individuals their freedoms and protections. Human rights advocacy
is about finding ways to pressure or persuade these actors to respect the dignity
of every human being, and meet their responsibilities under international law. We use the term human rights because they are universal. Every person is entitled to both civil and political rights, such as the right to life, to equality, and to freedom of expression as well as economic,
social, and cultural rights such as the right to work, to education, and to social security. At Human Rights Watch we try to stop human rights violations by doing three things: we document human rights abuses, creating a kind of case file of the facts; we publicize these facts
through published reports, the mainstream media,
and also social media so that no government can
say “that didn’t happen,” or “I hadn’t heard.” And finally we do advocacy. We explain, convince,
and press people in power or people whom they listen to to respect rights and secure justice. We refer to our methodology as investigate, expose, change. Let me explain each one a little more. We investigate to expose the truth of what has happened. Whether it’s torture in prisons, violence against women in war time, or the use of child labor in gold mines. Governments and other powerful actors generally try to hide the
human rights violations that they commit. Documenting what happened can take weeks, months, and sometimes years. We go to people with first-hand knowledge of what has happened: victims, their family
members, and eyewitnesses. We also talk with local
human rights advocates, lawyers, government officials, and United Nations representatives. Sometimes people lie to us or exaggerate or remember events incorrectly. So we cross check their statements and corroborate it with others in order to create a
full and accurate picture of what has happened. Human rights abuses are devastating and traumatic to the survivors and we know our account may be challenged by the authorities, so our
case can’t have flaws. Next we expose what has happened so the facts and victims’ experiences can not be ignored. We publish our findings and explain how we
gathered the information. We work to get local
or international media to cover the story in newspapers, radio, and TV. We use social media to get the word out on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and on other platforms. We take video from the scene and create short pieces for our own YouTube channel. We don’t want any government to be able to say, “that didn’t happen,” or, “I didn’t know.” Finally and most importantly, we want to bring change. This is human rights advocacy, and it’s the focus of this video series. We bring victims’ stories directly to policy makers and those with influence. And we offer them concrete recommendations for stopping the human rights abuses that we’ve documented. We want those with power, whether they’re government officials, rebel commanders, or corporate executives, to take the necessary action to end human rights abuses and protect human dignity. This series will look at how to conduct advocacy to protect and promote human rights, the tools and strategies that we can use, and what we can learn
from successful campaigns. We’ll begin by looking at the basics of an advocacy strategy. It has six parts. First we need to identify the problem we want to address. Whether it’s police brutality, the use of child soldiers, or crack downs on dissidents. We need to assess not
just the rights violations, but the context in which it’s occurring and its root causes. For example, if bad laws are the problem, our advocacy strategy may focus on legislative reform. But if laws are good
but not being enforced, our strategy will focus on
ways to address those gaps. On the other hand, if cultural beliefs are
perpetuating abuses, we’ll need to approach
our strategy differently. For example, by engaging religious and community leaders. Second, we need to be able to articulate why this issue is important and timely. Is it particularly wide spread or severe? Does it affect large numbers of people? Does it have an impact
outside the country? Are there policy debates under way that provide a unique opportunity to make a impact now? The core of good advocacy is to be able to articulate compelling reasons to make a human rights issue a priority, and persuade policy makers that among the many issues
coming to their attention, they can and should
take action on this one. Third is goals. What kind of change are we trying to make? Describing the problem is not enough. We need to be able to articulate concrete actions that will
improve the situation. For example, to address child marriage, a goal might be to pass national laws increasing the minimum
age of marriage to 18. To combat war crimes in an armed conflict, a goal could be the
prosecution of key commanders before an impartial court. Fourth is targets. We need to be able to identify who’s in a position to make the change that we seek. It may be national governments, the United Nations security council, private corporations, or armed groups. If our influence with the
primary target is limited, we need to identify secondary
sources of influence. These may be the media, prominent individuals,
third party governments, parts of the United Nations, or the broader public. For example, if a government is deliberately killing civilians during a war, we might
urge other governments to stop providing that
country with weapons. Fifth is tactics. We also need to identify
the tactics we’ll use to influence our targets. We have a large number
of tools in our toolbox, and the challenge is to pick those that will be most effective
in a given situation. These tactics can include
face-to-face meetings with people in power, public shaming in the media, public pressure through
petitions or letters. Drafting new legislation, or using social media to spotlight the action that is needed. And finally we need to identify our partners and allies. In the human rights movement, it’s rare that one person or one organization makes dramatic change by themselves. We’re often most effective when we join forces with others. Allies can include other
human rights groups, victims groups, religious
or cultural leaders, teachers, professional associations, even governments. In this series, we’ll go behind the scenes at Human Rights Watch to explain how we put
together advocacy strategies to deal with specific human rights abuses. In most cases, our advocacy took years, involving a lot of people and a lot of persistence. It’s important to remember
that you can’t solve every human rights problem. That isn’t our goal. But when you think carefully and strategically about how to attack a particular problem, you can make the world better. You can stop human rights abuses. Here’s how.

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1 Response

  1. Freedom Writer says:

    It's inspiring stories, incredible jobs.

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