Embodying human rights stories that win hearts and minds

Can hope be a winning strategy? While understanding abuse and injustice is a crucial dimension of human rights work, achieving positive social change also means creating a sense of opportunity and a vision for a better future. These articles explore what it means to create new human rights narratives, highlighting lessons from campaigns that resist the dominant emotions of crisis and fear, and seek instead to inspire change with hope, humanity, and empathy.


Funding truth and transparency: Ukraine's postwar media landscape

By: Emma Lygnerud Boberg

A transparent, democratic recovery effort in Ukraine will require adequate and coordinated funding for the independent media sector.

Archives and the fight against impunity

By: Jens Boel
Español | Français

Archives can be—and often are—instrumental in the fight against impunity.

Appropriating rights: Who rewrites rights and how?

By: Jayne Huckerby & Sarah Knuckey

Instead of blunt rejection, the global new Right is pursuing a project of so-called rights renewal.

Education against antisemitism within a human rights framework

By: Joscha Jelitzki

An initiative to foster a campus environment in which no one, Jewish or not, has to be afraid of being different required a human rights mindset.

A UN review shows the limits of China’s loud microphone communications strategy

By: William Nee

As the Chinese government seeks “center stage,” its compliance with its human rights obligations should be there as well.

Human rights: Ideology, illusion, source of hope?

By: Matthias Mahlmann

There is no reason whatsoever that can be derived from the theories of evolution and human psychology that undermines the case for human rights.

A seat at the table: Shifting narratives on human rights defenders at the United Nations

By: Sophie Mulphin & Tom Clarke

Stories told at the UN about human rights defenders have a major impact on how they are perceived and supported on the ground.

Forensic aesthetics and Aleksandar Hemon’s The Lazarus Project

By: Tobias Lebens

New links between literature and human rights open the door to understand evidence and new ways of narrating.

Exploring narrative practices for broad-based movements in contexts of democratic decline

By: Julia Roig & James Savage

The narratives we engage & deploy shape our world. In the face of rising authoritarianism, what stories & tactics drive collaboration within & between movements?

Human rights in the post-truth era

By: Nicolas Agostini
Español | Français

As attacks on truth and facts multiply, can activists be falling into the traps of post-truth? Evolutions in activism, communications and politics, as well as in ...

The transformative potential of human rights economics

By: Caroline Dommen
Español | Français

Human rights advocates could be more active in using human rights tools to transform economic thought and practice.

Narrative practice: moving from recipes to spices

By: Lucas Paulson

The invitation at the heart of "Narrative Spices" isn’t about specific strategies or approaches, but about cultivating habits that enable curiosity, exploration, ...

Has the local watchdog lost its teeth?

By: Emilie Helene Holm

Across the globe, the transition to digital media is disrupting media ecosystems, creating news deserts where local communities can no longer access information ...

Putting words into action: personal reflections on supporting narrative change

By: James Savage
Español | Français

How aligning principles with practice, addressing the power dynamics of collaboration, and nurturing an ecosystem for narrative power can help narrative work succeed.

Being BOLD in difficult times: Bulgarians organizing for liberal democracy

By: Dimitrina Petrova
Español | Русский

A new initiative in Bulgaria aims to reinvigorate support for democratic values and human rights by directly engaging citizens in a bottom-up process of deliberative ...

How can the human rights community respond to severe political polarization?

By: James Logan
Español | Français

Severe political polarization is tearing at the seams of democracies around the world, with dangerous consequences for our societies, institutions, and human rights.

Communicating Women’s Rights with a hope-based approach

By: Camila Chaudron

For those of us who care about the rights of women around the world, International Women’s Day can feel like empty lip service. But there is an approach that can ...

Making the case for a more joyful approach to human rights

By: William Paul Simmons
Español | Français

Joy is essential to understanding the struggle for human rights, and recognizing this can articulate a more positive notion of human rights.

For new narratives, human rights needs new forms of economic power

By: Alejandro Bautista
Español | Français

If compelling human rights narratives are not grounded in sustainable, replicable and scalable projects, it will be hard to outweigh the political and economic ...

Graffiti creates positive human rights narratives in Lebanon

By: Nohad Elhajj
Français | العربية

During widespread protests in Lebanon, street artists have painted messages of hope and human rights activism across Beirut.

Instead of shrinking space, let’s talk about humanity’s shared future

By: Thomas Coombes
Español | Français | العربية

To make the case for civil society, we have to talk less about the threats it faces and more about the values it stands for, how it contributes to society and show ...

Be the narrative: How embracing new narratives can revolutionize what it means to do human rights

By: Krizna Gomez & Thomas Coombes
Español | Français | العربية

An experimental, hands-on narrative change initiative shows how even small civil society organizations can wield pragmatic, activity-based narrative strategies ...

Brain research suggests emphasizing human rights abuses may perpetuate them

By: Laura Ligouri
Español | Français | العربية

Capitalizing on the brain’s capacity to simulate events, messages of positive behavior – instead of repeated exposure to accounts of abuse – could better lead to ...

The fight for “fun”damental rights for sex workers in South Africa

By: Ishtar Lakhani
Español | Français

Humour is one of the most effective tools in our activist arsenal, because it has the ability to bring people together from a space of shared connection rather ...

Hope counters hate in polarized and populist narratives

By: Rosie Carter

Giving people a sense of optimism about and control over their future is the best way to stop populist narratives from taking root.

How values-based campaigns can unite diverse movements

By: Tom Crompton
Español | Français

No cause is an island. Human rights and other movements can better work together by identifying and working to strengthen shared values like social justice, equality ...

Turning anger into positive energy for gender equality in sport

By: Maggie Murphy
Español | Français

Women footballers face discrimination, harassment, and funding challenges every day. But what is more powerful—listing all the problems, or using hope and optimism ...

A hashtag that inspired hope: #GambiaHasDecided

By: Salieu Taal
Français | Español

A movement that started as a simple hashtag, declaring that #GambiaHasDecided, is bringing a fresh wave of optimism and hope to political turmoil in the Gambia.

Why the future of human rights must be hopeful

By: Thomas Coombes
Español | Français | العربية

For a human rights movement dedicated to exposing abuses, positive communication does not come naturally. But to make the case for human rights, we need to promise ...

New year, new human rights narratives?

By: James Logan

Within the human rights community, there is a growing enthusiasm for new narratives to build public support for human rights. But creating a new narrative is about ...

Could “hope and aspirations” end the vicious cycle of poverty?

By: Keetie Roelen

Non-invasive and non-punitive interventions that draw on positive emotions have promising potential to break the poverty cycle, but this approach risks ignoring ...

Documenting progress key to Amnesty’s anti-death penalty work

By: Eric Prokosch
Français | Español

A simple, annual compilation of progress towards abolition provided a conceptual basis for worldwide anti-death penalty campaigning – linking local efforts to a ...

Tailoring the message: How the political left and right think differently about human rights

By: Joe Braun & Stephen Arves

Effectively motivating people to care about human rights depends largely on where they fall on the political spectrum.

“Small places, close to home”: successful communication on human rights

By: Neil Crowther
Español | Français

Effective counter-framing is crucial to improve public opinion on human rights.

It’s all in the frame: winning marriage equality in America

By: Kevin Nix 
Español | Français

Was there a magic messaging bullet that helped change American public opinion on same-sex marriage?

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