Internationalizing Human Rights Organizations

Why, how, and at what cost?

Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock

Human rights organizations, networks and movements are expanding, broadening, and internationalizing. Groups based in the global north are trying to sink southern roots, while groups based in the south are trying to become more cross regional and global. Donors, such as Ford Foundation and the Open Society Foundations, are supporting these changes. In this debate we explore why, how, and at what cost internationalization is taking place in the global human rights community.


The hazards of international NGOs going local

May 22, 2018
By: Mona Younis
العربية | Español

International human rights NGOs are increasingly locating staff and offices in the global South. A recent ...

Addressing systemic inequality in human rights funding

December 4, 2017
By: Barbara Klugman & Ravindran Daniel & Denise Dora & Maimouna Jallow

Human rights funding is systemically inequitable, and this will only change when funders provide core ...

Finding equity: shifting power structures in human rights

November 30, 2017
By: Barbara Klugman & Ravindran Daniel & Denise Dora & Maimouna Jallow

The marker of progress towards an equitable human rights ecology is when local and national groups no ...

The value of diversity in creating systemic change for human rights

November 27, 2017
By: Barbara Klugman & Ravindran Daniel & Denise Dora & Maimouna Jallow

The human rights system must value and mobilize the expertise of all players, from local to international ...

Less money, more risk: the struggle for change in women’s rights

August 21, 2015
By: Rochelle Jones & Sarah Rosenhek & Anna Turley
Español | Français

With fewer resources and greater risks, sustainable change in women’s rights internationally means supporting ...

The realpolitik of rights and democracy

August 11, 2015
By: Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua

What happens when human rights and democracy do not only advance Western foreign policy, but also contribute ...

Internationalisation: lessons from the women’s movement

August 4, 2015
By: Muthoni Muriithi

The internationalisation debate can learn a lot from women’s movements in terms of opening spaces and ...

Do African rights groups have the “how” to internationalise?

June 9, 2015
By: Charles Kojo Vandyck 

Internationalising human rights work in Africa will always be a distant dream unless rights groups operate ...

Towards a multipolar civil society

May 28, 2015
By: Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah & Mandeep Tiwana
Español | Português

With the world more multipolar than ever, why is civil society power still disproportionately located ...

When internationalization causes more harm than good

May 26, 2015
By: Ram Mashru
Español | Français | العربية

Focusing on the practicalities of internationalization neglects a vital and thorny question: is going ...

One-way street: can internationalization ever be South-North?

May 18, 2015
By: Maja Daruwala

North-South internationalization must be an alliance of equals, not simply a Northern expansion.

How does professionalization impact international human rights organizations?

May 7, 2015
By: Carrie Oelberger
Español | Français

The more transnational human rights groups become, the more likely they are to professionalize. This, ...

Decentralizing can make global human rights groups stronger

April 2, 2015
By: Adriano Campolina
Español | Français

NGO internationalization is now trendy, but ActionAid realized long ago that giving up power doesn’t ...

A Geneva Spring? Why civil society needs North-South solidarity

March 26, 2015
By: Louise Arbour
Español | Português

International human rights institutions are weak, but true North-South solidarity in civil society could ...

Internationalization is about more than just advocacy

March 24, 2015
By: Johanna Siméant

As NGOs create global brands rather than a “global civil society”, internationalization reaches beyond ...

Playing both ends against the middle

March 20, 2015
By: Stephen Hopgood
Español | Français | العربية

The idea of a “global middle” assumes that human rights transcend borders. But do they really?

Internationalizing human rights NGOs is not a zero-sum game

March 4, 2015
By: Kenneth Roth
Español | Português

Internationalizing human rights NGOs can benefit everyone; it’s not a zero sum game.

New trend, old roots: “internationalization” in Amnesty’s history

March 2, 2015
By: Susan Waltz

For Amnesty International, the growing trend of “internationalization” has very old roots.

Transnational rights violations call for new forms of cooperation

February 10, 2015
By: Jessica Montell
עברית | Español | Français | العربية

Human rights violations are increasingly transnational, yet there are no organizations addressing human ...

Human rights diversity goes beyond North-South relations

February 2, 2015
By: Emily Martinez
Español | Français | العربية

Diversifying the global human rights movement involves more than North-South restructuring.

Don’t ditch the “local” when scrambling to “go global”

January 23, 2015
By: Stanley Ibe
Español | Français | العربية

We cannot afford to globalize human rights at the expense of local context. To be sustainable and effective, ...

A time for change? The future of INGOs in international human rights

January 23, 2015
By: Wendy Wong
Español | Français | العربية

Representativeness and access in the human rights arena is crucial, but is decentralization really the ...

Home and abroad: balancing Brazil’s human rights commitments

January 22, 2015
By: Muriel Asseraf
Español | Português

Emerging countries like Brazil are at a turning point, struggling to balance their domestic issues with ...

Long before “internationalization”: Human Rights Watch and local collaborations in Russia

January 22, 2015
By: Tanya Lokshina

Despite a hostile climate and many different challenges, the collaborations of Human Rights Watch with ...

Multiple boomerangs: new models of global human rights advocacy

January 21, 2015
By: César Rodríguez-Garavito

The global human rights field is being transformed, and activists are inventing new, less hierarchical ...

How do we solve structural inequality in global networks?

January 21, 2015
By: Charli Carpenter

It’s time to relocate power centres in the top-heavy human rights network. The savvy use of network ...

Moving Amnesty closer to the ground is necessary, not simple

January 20, 2015
By: Salil Shetty
Español | Français | العربية

The rapidly changing global structure and the rise of emerging powers require Amnesty to work in a more ...

Coming together, or falling apart?

January 20, 2015
By: Sarah Stroup
Español | Français | العربية

International human rights groups are a big help when developing transnational norms; decentralizing ...

To truly internationalize human rights, funding must make sense

January 19, 2015
By: Wanja Muguongo
Español | Français | العربية

Do western donors want to “internationalize” the human rights movement, or do they want to retain control ...

Convergence towards the global middle: an emerging architecture for the international human rights movement

January 19, 2015
By: Louis Bickford
Español | Français | العربية

As international rights groups move “closer to the ground” and domestic groups reach out internationally, ...

Internationalizing human rights organizations – why, how, and at what cost?

January 19, 2015
By: James Ron & Archana Pandya

The openGlobalRights editors introduce this week's debate.