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.

 

Who will defend the rule of law, if not Amnesty?

By: Sonya Sceats
Español | Français

As Amnesty frames its goals in terms of confronting power and structural injustice, it risks weakening its defense of the rule of law—at precisely the moment when ...

It’s time for human rights NGOs to challenge systems, not symptoms

By: Sherif Elsayed-Ali
Español

To win support, human rights NGOs must challenge systems, not symptoms, step up their work on ESR, and provide practical solutions to the problems they expose.

The hazards of international NGOs going local

By: Mona Younis
العربية | Español

International human rights NGOs are increasingly locating staff and offices in the global South. A recent evaluation suggests that this can hinder—rather than help—the ...

Addressing systemic inequality in human rights funding

By: Barbara Klugman & Ravindran Daniel & Denise Dora & Maimouna Jallow
Español

Human rights funding is systemically inequitable, and this will only change when funders provide core support that allows grantee organizations to make their own ...

Finding equity: shifting power structures in human rights

By: Barbara Klugman & Ravindran Daniel & Denise Dora & Maimouna Jallow
Español

The marker of progress towards an equitable human rights ecology is when local and national groups no longer have to wait to be invited in.

The value of diversity in creating systemic change for human rights

By: Barbara Klugman & Ravindran Daniel & Denise Dora & Maimouna Jallow
Español

The human rights system must value and mobilize the expertise of all players, from local to international levels. This is a work in progress that has only just ...

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

By: Rochelle Jones & Sarah Rosenhek & Anna Turley
Español | Français

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

The realpolitik of rights and democracy

By: Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua

What happens when human rights and democracy do not only advance Western foreign policy, but also contribute to producing, not reducing, poverty?

Internationalisation: lessons from the women’s movement

By: Muthoni Muriithi
Français

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

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

By: Charles Kojo Vandyck 

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

Towards a multipolar civil society

By: Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah & Mandeep Tiwana
Español | Português

With the world more multipolar than ever, why is civil society power still disproportionately located in the global North?

When internationalization causes more harm than good

By: Ram Mashru
Español | Français | العربية

Focusing on the practicalities of internationalization neglects a vital and thorny question: is going global really in the interests of all rights groups?

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

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?

By: Carrie Oelberger
Español | Français

The more transnational human rights groups become, the more likely they are to professionalize. This, in turn, can influence the sector’s values.

Decentralizing can make global human rights groups stronger

By: Adriano Campolina
Español | Français

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

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

By: Louise Arbour
Español | Português

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

Internationalization is about more than just advocacy

By: Johanna Siméant
Français

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

Playing both ends against the middle

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

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

By: Susan Waltz
Español

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

Transnational rights violations call for new forms of cooperation

By: Jessica Montell
עברית | Español | Français | العربية

Human rights violations are increasingly transnational, yet there are no organizations addressing human rights in Israel’s foreign policy.

Human rights diversity goes beyond North-South relations

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”

By: Stanley Ibe
Español | Français | العربية

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

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

By: Wendy Wong
Español | Français | العربية

Representativeness and access in the human rights arena is crucial, but is decentralization really the best move?

Home and abroad: balancing Brazil’s human rights commitments

By: Muriel Asseraf
Español | Português

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

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

By: Tanya Lokshina
Русский

Despite a hostile climate and many different challenges, the collaborations of Human Rights Watch with local Russian organizations continue to be the key for making ...

Multiple boomerangs: new models of global human rights advocacy

By: César Rodríguez-Garavito
Español

The global human rights field is being transformed, and activists are inventing new, less hierarchical models of collaboration, including global virtual networks ...

How do we solve structural inequality in global networks?

By: Charli Carpenter
Español

It’s time to relocate power centres in the top-heavy human rights network. The savvy use of network tactics is the best approach: cultivating southern “hubs”, empowering ...

Moving Amnesty closer to the ground is necessary, not simple

By: Salil Shetty
Español | Français | العربية

The rapidly changing global structure and the rise of emerging powers require Amnesty to work in a more bottom-up manner. Now, for the first time ever, there is ...

Coming together, or falling apart?

By: Sarah Stroup
Español | Français | العربية

International human rights groups are a big help when developing transnational norms; decentralizing these NGOs risks robbing them of their key strength.

To truly internationalize human rights, funding must make sense

By: Wanja Muguongo
Español | Français | العربية

Do western donors want to “internationalize” the human rights movement, or do they want to retain control while including a few token Africans? It’s time for long-term ...

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

By: Louis Bickford
Español | Français | العربية

As international rights groups move “closer to the ground” and domestic groups reach out internationally, the human rights community is converging. Can we harness ...

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

By: James Ron & Archana Pandya

The openGlobalRights editors introduce this week's debate.