Movement Building

Growing and strengthening the human rights movement

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Human rights work involves an entire ecosystem of actors, from lawyers and activists to business people and politicians. But many questions remain unanswered about how to most effectively engage with new actors and new issues. What risks and opportunities does expanding the scope of the human rights movement (or movements) pose? How can human rights advocates bring in new—even unexpected—allies to their work without compromising the values they stand for?

 

Explore collections on:

Religion and Human Rights

Internationalizing Human Rights Organizations

 

The “homocolonialist” test for global LGBTQ+ & SOGIE rights strategies

By: Momin Rahman
العربية

There is a major pitfall in assuming that other countries simply need to “catch up” through an expansion of SOGIE rights frameworks.

Relationship-based cosmopolitanism is key to meaningful but messy rights protections

By: Kristi Heather Kenyon
Setswana | Zulu

In practice, no one enjoys “international human rights.” In each of our lives, all rights are local and personal.

Lockdowns vs. religious freedom: COVID-19 is a trust building exercise

By: Gunnar Ekeløve-Slydal & Liv H. Kvanvig
Русский | Bahasa

Governments must partner with faith leaders to battle COVID-19, creating an opportunity to build necessary trust and cooperation with wider parts of the population.

Will COVID-19 increase religious hostilities and discrimination?

By: Marie Juul Petersen  & Claire Thomas & Sajjad Hassan
Español | العربية

COVID-19 and its impacts may hit some religious minorities disproportionately hard, exacerbating economic inequalities, social hostilities and discrimination.

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.

Promoting freedom of religion or belief – key lessons

By: Marie Juul Petersen  & Katherine Marshall
Español | العربية

Freedom of religion or belief is rightly gaining more attention, but steps to promote this right need to be anchored in international standards, locally relevant ...

To protect human rights abroad, preach to Trump voters

By: Howard Lavine & James Ron
Español

Religious leaders can help convince the most ethnocentric and authoritarian American voters to oppose Washington’s backing of abusive dictators.

Malaysia’s punishment of lesbian couple highlights OIC rejection of LGBTQ rights

By: Robert C. Blitt
العربية

Malaysia’s recent caning of a homosexual couple reflects a larger problem with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) continued support for discriminatory ...

UN’s approach inside Myanmar abandons human rights principles

By: Liam Mahony

Although UN human rights bodies have criticized the persecution of the Rohingya, UN agencies inside Myanmar have been far too deferential to the authorities.

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 ...

Using foreign aid for state repression in Thailand

By: Salvador Santino F. Regilme, Jr.

During transnational security crises, aid recipient governments use foreign aid to increase domestic state repression that targets unarmed political dissidents.

Religious rights advocacy won’t save the Rohingya—but what will?

By: Elizabeth Shakman Hurd
မြန်မာဘာသာ

To insist on the Rohingya status as a victimized religious minority while ignoring other factors cements their position as outsiders, fueling exclusionary forms ...

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 ...

Human rights and the state: embracing and abandoning religion(s)

By: Peter Jacob

The debate about whether a state should be religious or secular doesn’t always affect how a society treats religious minorities.

Islamic ideals of peace and justice: are we overlooking something?

By: Hakan Altinay
العربية

Associating progressive social policies with Islam may unsettle some, yet the parallels are there and offer many possibilities.

Do South Africans really have the right to protest?

By: Julian Brown 

South Africans’ right to protest exists on paper, but authorities have effectively suppressed dissent by making it too dangerous.

Mexicans expect far more from the Pope than we will ever get

By: Ariadna Estévez
Español

The Pope’s first official visit to Mexico was all talk and no action, but it was exactly what many Mexicans expected.

Activists in an international system: pushing for change in Sri Lanka

By: Ruki Fernando

Local and international activists have been crucial in getting a UN response in Sri Lanka.

Human rights at a crossroads: 18 months after Ayotzinapa

By: Janice Gallagher & Paula Martinez Gutierrez
Español

Eighteen months after Ayotzinapa, Mexican civil society has pulled together in new and promising ways to challenge the state.

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.

For Moroccan rights groups, good reputations aren’t enough

By: Rachid Touhtou  & James Ron & Shannon Golden
Français | العربية

Without building a strong popular base, the Moroccan human rights community cannot capitalize on its good reputation.

Partners in prayer: women's rights and religion in Morocco

By: Meriem El Haitami & Shannon Golden & James Ron
Français | العربية

Pundits say that religion and human rights are opposing forces in Morocco, especially around women’s rights. Our Human Rights Perception Polls suggest a more nuanced ...

Religion and rights in Bangladesh: maintaining a delicate balance

By: Mubin S. Khan
বাংলা

Bangladeshi activists work around religious elements, sometimes even collaborating with them. The rise of religious groups, however, is becoming both a challenge ...

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?

Religion inspires in ways that international law does not

By: Abadir M. Ibrahim
العربية

Using extreme examples to justify a purely secular human rights approach does a disservice to the many religious leaders doing progressive work.

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.

Home, for Algeria’s Jews, is elsewhere

By: Farah Souames
العربية

Intolerance towards Algerian Jews has been driven by geopolitics and history, not religion.

In Egypt, human rights need religion

By: Jack Snyder
العربية

Religious progressives are vital for Egypt’s human rights; secular groups can’t do it alone.

Secularism can sometimes undermine women’s rights

By: Emma Tomalin

Rights activists tend to identify secularism with women’s rights, but if we don’t engage with religion, we can’t effectively confront many wrong-headed policies ...

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.

UN strategy to combat religious intolerance - is it fit for purpose?

By: Marc Limon & Nazila Ghanea & Hilary Power
Español | العربية

As religious intolerance and discrimination increase, is the UN’s current strategic response – as set out in a Human Rights Council resolution and related plans ...

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.

Women’s rights in Tunisia: promising future or religio-political game?

By: Elsy Melkonian
Français | العربية

Women in Tunisia have long enjoyed rights that are very clear on paper. In practice, however, the government’s willingness to enforce these rights seems to depend ...

Religious conversions in India – keeping human rights at the core

By: Siddharth Peter De Souza
हिन्दी

Religion is not only about belief but also about its capacity for human well-being. Therefore, human rights should be at the core of an individual’s right to evaluate ...

Tradition should defer to human rights, not the other way around

By: Leo Igwe

‘Traditional African ways’ is not a monolith. It has evolved over time and must evolve again to adapt to human rights. Human rights should not defer to tradition ...

What does the “right to life” really mean for Catholics in Mexico?

By: Renee De La Torre
Español

It’s time for leaders in the Mexican Catholic Church to speak up where they are most needed.

Religion and human rights - partnership with a dose of pragmatism

By: Adem Kassie Abebe
Français

Religion and human rights need not be completely divorced, or work hand-in-hand all the time. A case-by-case approach, taking into account the realities on the ...

Religion as a political game: rising intolerance in Indonesia

By: Ahmad Sueady
Bahasa

Indonesia’s rising religious intolerance stems from a political pact struck between former president Bambang Yudhoyono and the country’s least tolerant Muslim groups. ...

To end manual scavenging in India, Hindu religious leaders must speak up

By: Seema Guha
हिन्दी

In India, Hindu religious leaders are reluctant to campaign loudly against the collection of raw sewage by oppressed communities, and this is slowing progress in ...

Indonesia’s growing religious intolerance

By: Phelim Kine
Bahasa

Although Indonesia has long been seen as a religiously moderate country, Sunni Muslim militants are attacking minority religious communities across the country. ...

Filling the gap: why prayer camps in Ghana are sometimes the only option

By: Abamfo Ofori Atiemo
Français

Human Rights Watch’s scathing critique of Ghana’s prayer camps misses the point. For many people struggling with mental illness and social stigmatization, the camps ...

Does “religious freedom” include the right to convert or scam others?

By: José Zalaquett
Español

Does freedom of religion include the right to convert others, or pressure them into giving money?

The (in)human dimension of Ghana’s prayer camps

By: Shantha Rau Barriga
Français

Ambamfo Ofori Atiemo says that prayer camps in Ghana deserve a closer look, as they are a supposedly compassionate, faith-based response to mental disability. Human ...

Should it matter how the mass is mobilized?

By: Kechi Nomu
Français

On the streets of Nigeria, what seems like the “voice of the people” is often just unquestioning followers, echoing the opinions of religious leaders. The human ...

Preaching for human rights

By: Beatrice Lamwaka
Français

Human rights advocates must take their message to street corners, like preachers, and teach the people love for everyone, irrespective of race, tribe and sexual ...

What do Muslim women want? Finding women’s rights in Islam

By: Xaviera Medina
Español

The Koran proclaims equality between the sexes but also clearly indicates male superiority. In the fight for women’s rights in Islamic societies, how do human rights ...

Myth and reality: the Catholic Church and human rights in Latin America

By: Ariadna Estévez
Español

While the progressive Catholic Church is on the frontline of defending human rights in Latin American, its conservative branch still attacks reproductive rights ...

Pentecostal Christianity: retrogressive force or dynamic ally?

By: Richard L. Wood
Español | Français

Pentecostal Christianity is one of the fastest growing religious forces in the world. Although many secular human rights activists view Pentecostalism as retrogressive, ...

Is the emerging middle class our best hope for global rights activism?

By: Doutje Lettinga
Español | Français | العربية

A global poll into perceptions of human rights confirms there is hope for international human rights organizations to build alliances within Southern civil societies ...

For human rights, religious interpretation matters most

By: Iyad Barghouthi
العربية

Religious interpretation is what counts. This explains why Pakistanis vote for female leaders, while Saudi Arabia bans women drivers.

Whose faith wins? Keeping religion out of the law

By: Geraldyn Ezeakile
Français

Religion may help to control behavior and justify human worth and dignity, but in Nigeria, the co-existence of Sharia law with English Common Law has had serious ...

Arguing like Abraham for Gaza’s innocents

By: Rabbi Arik Ascherman
العربية | עברית | Türkçe

Most Israeli Jews support the Gaza war, but the justice of self-defense has created a spiritual myopia among my people. As community and religious leaders, we rabbis ...

Strategic choices facing Israeli rights group during the current war

By: Dahlia Scheindlin
עברית | العربية | Español | Français

How should Israeli rights groups respond to this new war, and to the hatred many Jewish Israelis feel towards them and their work?

Occu-Kashrut and ethical Jewish consumerism

By: Louis Frankenthaler

For some, a boycott of products made in Israeli settlements - Occu-Kashrut - is an ethically motivated act of Jewish religious practice. As a result, Israel’s ...

Let’s talk about religion

By: Meghan L. Morris
Español

Many human rights advocates work with people and/or communities who believe in a God or gods, but few are actually talking about the specifics of those beliefs. ...

The real power of rights is not religion

By: Michael Bochenek
Español

It’s not useful to debate whether human rights derive from religion or to include religious leaders only as token voices. What we need are authentic alliances with ...

In Africa, human rights and religion often go together

By: Abamfo Ofori Atiemo
Français

In Africa and other regions in the global South, religion and human rights support similar values. For years, religion has helped disenfranchised groups the way ...

No human rights without God

By: Daniel Philpott

Human rights need God because three ingredients are critical to their validity: universal moral norms, human dignity, and their “trump card” status. These ingredients ...

Faith in rights: ethics of the public square

By: Amyn B. Sajoo

Human rights cannot thrive globally without the support of pluralist religious theologies that are in tune with public culture. In Muslim settings, this means that ...

Starting at the top: why rights groups need to engage religious leaders

By: Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr 

For human rights to find resonance in the global South, we must connect them to the existing beliefs of the people by engaging religious leaders. Without this cultural ...

The politicization of Hindu faith in India

By: Fr. Cedric Prakash Sj
Español | Français | العربية

Hinduism preaches tolerance, the Indian Constitution enshrines plurality. So why has divisive political communalism become acceptable, even electable, when disguised ...

The paradox of religion and rights

By: Jeremy Carrette

While religion is foundational to human rights, it is also problematic. Broad concepts of religion often obscure identity and hide an imperialistic organization ...

In Israel, Rabbis for Human Rights address painful paradoxes

By: Rabbi Arik Ascherman
Español | Français | العربية | עברית

In a world where so much blood is shed for religion, Rabbis for Human Rights believes that the Jewish faith must be a force for human rights.

Muslim NGOs, aid, and human rights

By: Marie Juul Petersen 
Español | Français | العربية

Drawing on studies of Muslim aid organisations in Britain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan and Bangladesh, the author explores how these organisations do and don’t ...

Religion as a human rights liability

By: Nida Kirmani 
Español | اردو | العربية

lthough many human rights movements have religious underpinnings, explicitly linking religion to human rights can lead to the exclusion and persecution of minority ...

Human rights abuse in Burma and the role of Buddhist nationalism

By: Wai Yan Phone 
ภาษาไทย | မြန်မာဘာသာ

Myanmar is taking significant strides towards political and economic liberalization after decades of military dictatorship, yet a series of violent attacks against ...

The rights in Hinduism

By: Arvind Sharma 
Español | العربية

Contrary to popular perception, Hindu philosophies of moral agency, duty and universal truth cohabit with human rights values.

Islamic and UN Bills of Rights: same difference

By: Muhtari Aminu-Kano & Ayaz Ali & Atallah Fitzgibbon
Français | Español | العربية

Despite tension between western notions of individual freedom and Muslim tenets of communal responsibility, there is much common ground to be found in the fight ...

Human rights must get religion

By: Larry Cox
Français | Español | العربية

Many human rights activists are secular and view religion as a problem, rather than as an ally. Although religion does often pose serious challenges, it also offers ...

On a wing and a prayer: can religion revive the rights movement?

By: Jack Snyder
Español | Français | العربية

Normative frameworks in the Global South are largely religious, making it difficult for the secular human rights movement to penetrate these societies. Religious ...

Faith and health care in Africa: a complex reality

By: Jill Olivier
Français | العربية

It’s time to move past overly simplistic arguments surrounding Catholics and condoms, and make an effort to understand the real and very complex contributions of ...

The struggle for a truly grassroots human rights movement

By: James Ron & David Crow & Shannon Golden
Español | Français | العربية | Português | Türkçe

Using cutting-edge human rights perception polls, the authors explore links between social class and domestic human rights movements in Mexico, Colombia, Morocco, ...

 
 
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