PHM-Exch> Working for Human Rights and Justice

Claudio Schuftan schuftan at
Sat Feb 17 10:04:39 PST 2018

Working for Human Rights and Justice: Ten Recommendations for Civil Society
from Civil Society

Daniel Bevan, United Edge, *February 2018*

How can we develop and improve our work to lead to more tangible and
permanent positive changes for society?

Creating a better future is seen as:

   - A future in which civil society is playing a leading role in striving
   for social and environmental justice, rather than propping up a broken
   - A future in which corporations, governments and NGOs are held to
   account for their actions and responsibilities to people and the
   - A future in which the people most affected by injustice are the same
   people who are making decisions to address and prevent it.
   - A future in which innovation, learning and evidence are at the heart
   of the way we cultivate more holistic, people-led solutions to the problems
   facing us all.
   - A future in which individuals are empowered to think critically and
   act in line with their beliefs and the best interest of others and the

*Here are the top ten recommendations for civil society arrived at in
discussions with public interest civil society organizations in Asia. …
enjoy! (And act!)*

*1. Integrity: Practice what you preach*

*Whether you work for a development or humanitarian agency, a charity, a
community-based organisation, or you’re simply working on issues you’re
passionate about, integrity is the key. *While the UN continues to develop
programmes and campaigns on gender equality around the world, for
example, *only
one in five senior staff members within the organisation are women
Our own organisations must lead by example in the way we champion the
rights of our staff, clients and partners.

Through strong policy and practice, we need to address wider issues and
systemic problems such as over-consumption, climate change, the
environment, hierarchy and women’s rights in the workplace and beyond. Even
as individuals working in social and environmental justice, we must
cultivate the courage to ask questions, reflect on our impact and take
action <>* in our
everyday lives to work towards a better world.

*2. Capacity: Invest in people*

*Organisations, networks and movements working on human rights, the
environment and justice cannot succeed in their work without skilled
confident and knowledgeable staff who are aware of key issues and
approaches in social change. *You wouldn’t want to have surgery from a
doctor with only a basic understanding of human anatomy. In the same way,
those working in humanitarian, development or social work are dealing with
people’s lives and should have a solid grounding in human rights principles
and instruments, social and cultural systems that affect people and the
planet, and international and national laws and accountability mechanisms.

Every person should be trained in evidence-based decision making and best
practice in monitoring and evaluation, participatory methodology, gender,
inclusion and safeguarding. They should also be supported to recognize and
understand power and privilege in their *everyday lives
Building internal capacity and encouraging professional development not
only improves our work, it also makes us more accountable and helps to
create the sort of leadership and innovation needed to affect change for
the world’s most vulnerable communities and ecosystems.

*3. Collaboration: Work together for effectiveness*

*People working in social change all share the same goals. If we didn’t,
then we’d definitely have a long way still to go! *All around the world,
different actors for social change are fighting for the same funds. We all
hope to gain the best reputation, stand above the rest, be the leaders that
the world needs. On a community level NGOs are fighting over opportunities
to work with certain groups of people or in certain locations, and each
social change player is dedicated to building the most productive
relationships with both governments and donor institutions.

The sheer amount of time that goes into competing with others is *staggering
If civil society is to succeed in creating lasting change, we must be
prepared to put the work before the rewards. We must *work together
through thick and thin – supporting advocacy initiatives or campaigns that
already exist, sharing knowledge and data, coordinating our plans and
developing shared research. Only then can we become effective enough to
create change. We can be far more than the sum of our parts.

*4. Accountability: Become critical friends with the government*

*States are the principal duty bearers for human rights. Although we all
have a moral obligation to act, they have a legal responsibility
for ensuring that every citizen is able to enjoy all of their rights. *What
we often forget is that governments are made up of people, and in order for
the state to be accountable for human and environmental responsibilities,
the individuals who make up governments must fully understand these
responsibilities and how to address them.

Civil society must invest in building the capacity and interest of
governments while supporting them to engage with the groups most affected
by each issue. We need to support transparency and initiatives that make
the state more accountable to its citizens. It is time to strengthen
anti-corruption policies while *working together
to tackle corruption on a national level, advocate and model greater
transparency, and support initiatives to strengthen rule of law and the
impartiality of the judiciary – all factors that are essential for lasting
change. Building *strong working relationships
while remaining true to the principles of justice helps us to be ‘critical
friends’ who will support state actors in their mission while holding them
to account for their responsibilities.

*5. Participation: Hand over decision-making to those most affected*

*Those working in social change talk a lot about participation – so much so
that the true meaning of this buzzword has all but disappeared. *The idea
of participation does not mean simply consulting with communities, having
youth trustees or getting local people involved in project activities.
Participation is all about decisions being made by those most affected by
those decisions. It means identifying and enabling the people who are most
affected and, importantly, it means *sharing power

It cannot be the place of donors to decide what our work should focus on.
We have a responsibility to advocate and support the leadership of local
people and local civil society in decision-making about programme and
policy priorities, and we must ensure that the *communities and individuals
most affected by the issues are leading decision-making throughout the
project cycle – from needs assessment and project design to monitoring,
evaluation and ongoing management. We have been talking about participation
for years. Now is the time to put it into practice in everything we do.

*6. Power: Address the underlying system*

*When we see the same injustices happen again and again, we need to ask
ourselves whether they are actually the results of something deeper – a
broken system. *Through our work, we often tackle massive injustices, but
unless we start to address the *underlying systemic issues
these injustices will continue to happen. Economies that favour the rich
over the poor, cultures that favour men over women, governments that favour
those in power over those in need: these are all examples of broken systems
that continue to cultivate injustice.

As civil society we need to develop a clear understanding of underlying
systemic issues that need to be addressed in order to achieve social
justice and seek out the most effective ways of solving society’s problems
without contributing to broken systems. We also have to look at how *our
own system <>* – whether humanitarian,
environmental, community development or human rights – is fundamentally
flawed and create a viable alternative. Change will only happen when we are
cultivating systems of justice and tacking systems of privilege and power.

*7. Innovation: Seek out alternative models for change*

*Ironically, the social ‘change’ sector is extremely reluctant to change! *Due
diligence requirements from donors, a skeptical public and bulky
bureaucracies mean that true innovation is infrequent and happens within
the confines of the ‘way things have always been done’. The fact that
something has always been done in a particular way, of course, says nothing
about whether that way is the best  way.

We need to *challenge
assumptions about everything we do and actively seek out better models for
our work that take a more holistic approach to social change – addressing
not only one key issue but making sure that our models also challenge power
structures, ensure true participation and address multiple rights. We need
to pool our evidence, work with others from outside of the sector and
pilot *new
approaches <>*. This way, we can ensure we are being
effective at true social change.

*8. Learning: Use evidence to improve work and be more accountable*

*We talk a lot about impact in our line of work. But what exactly do we
mean by it and how, precisely, can we measure it?* People often say that
it’s almost impossible to measure the true impact of our work. This is
probably one of the main reasons that we have such poor *monitoring and
evaluation mechanisms
<>* in place.
However, any decision we make in our programmes should be based on some
sort of evidence that demonstrates what is needed. Decision making without
evidence is both futile and potentially dangerous.

We need stronger monitoring and evaluation systems, improved capacity in
this area and better guidance. These systems are possible but require time,
financial investment and commitment from all main actors. Donors, for
example, should be prioritizing learning over contractual compliance, and
we need to be better at sharing our data, lessons and actions with others –
creating a more transparent sector and adding to a global movement for *open
data <>*. Even more
importantly, we should ensure that data analysis and decision-making are
happening on the ground by those affected by our projects, making us more
accountable to those that matter most – the communities and individuals we
hope to support for them to empower themselves.

*9.  Business: Tackle the private sector to affect social change*

*As organisations and individuals who address social and environmental
justice, it’s important to remember where injustices arise and who are the
key actors.* Communities, governments and NGOs regularly work together to
tackle certain issues but one massively influential group we often overlook
is the private sector. Companies and private interests often wield
incredible power over governments, resources and policy, and their *impact
on human rights
and the environment can be catastrophic.

We must directly address human rights violations and the negative
environmental impact from businesses in our work if we are to address the
root cases of so many of the world’s problems. We also need to support the
cultivation of *new models <>* for business.
At the same time, we have to ensure our corporate partnerships and
procurement policies are aligned to stringent environmental and human
rights criteria – otherwise we become a part of the problem.

*10. Education: Ensure everyone knows their rights*

*The first step in ensuring that people are able to enjoy their rights is
making sure they know exactly what their rights are. *This is a little more
complicated than it first sounds since there are international human rights
that are not recognized by the law, although there may be established
standards even when legal rights are missing. One thing is clear though –
no one can try to claim their rights effectively if they don’t *know what
their rights are <>*.
Knowledge is power.

All people in all our programmes should be supported to learn about their
rights in ways that are most appropriate and useful to them. We should
support governments to better understand human rights and how to mainstream
human rights in their services and priorities. Importantly, we must
support *communities
and individuals
<>* to
advocate for their rights so that we are simply facilitators in the
relationship between duty bearer and claim holder.
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