Human rights defenders do the crucial work of alleviating injustices and protecting the most vulnerable. Yet this challenging work often has a detrimental effect on activist mental health. HRDs are chronically overworked and under-resourced. They are frequently exposed to distressing situations, both directly and indirectly.
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Learn from the experiences of human rights defenders by browsing and searching our previous New Tactics Conversations. You can search for a particular topic or geographic region and find human rights defenders you can connect with. Or, see the entire list of topics on one page.
Documenting the impact of human rights advocacy work can be difficult. Traditional strategies to track and evaluate progress are often ill-suited to monitor progress in a field where change can be hard to measure. Still, better understanding how and why organizations succeed can help inform and strengthen strategy.
The 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees provides protection for people forcibly displaced by threats of persecution and violence from their country of origin. The Convention defines these people as refugees, those who are “unable or unwilling to return… owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.” While the 1951 Convention put in place important protections for vulnerable groups around the world, it did not provide safeguards for all populations experiencing forced displacement. People forcibly displaced by economic conditions, development projects, natural disasters, and climate change are excluded from the scope of this Convention. Internally displaced people (IDPs) and stateless populations devoid of citizenship face additional hurdles in accessing protection; despite facing similar hardships, these groups don’t meet the UN designation of refugee and are disqualified from the Convention’s protections. This conversation focuses on people forcibly displaced by a variety of non-violent factors.
The 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees provides protection for people forcibly displaced by threats of persecution and violence. The convention defines these people as refugees, those who are “unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.” However, while the 1951 Convention put in place important protections for vulnerable groups around the world, it did not provide protection for all populations experiencing forced displacement. This conversation will focus on people forcibly displaced by violence and conflict. Due to the definition’s emphasis on personal discrimination, many people whose safety is threatened by the violence around them but not necessarily directed at them are excluded from the same protection given to refugees. Internally displaced people (IDPs) are also excluded from the refugee definition because they have not left the borders of their country, even though they may be experiencing similar hardships as refugees. Finally, stateless populations’ lack of citizenship can make it difficult for them to access refugee status.
In the aftermath of violence, fractured societies must pull together to build a stable social order. To effectively move forward, it is crucial that peacebuilding include the voices of all citizens, including ex-combatants, civil society leaders, governmental actors, representatives from minority groups, and more. However, there is one sector of the population that is routinely disregarded in peacebuilding processes—despite making up half of the population, women are often left on the sidelines of state-sanctioned peacebuilding. This marginalization has serious ramifications for human rights, the ability of societies to heal holistically, and long term stability. Women experience conflict differently than men, and excluding them from peacebuilding discussions leaves society susceptible to threats that women are better able to identify than their male counterparts. According to the UN, women’s inclusion in peace processes increases the chances of agreements lasting more than two years by 20 percent and increases their chances of lasting at least 15 years by 35 percent.
Although there are more refugees today than there were at the end of World War Two, the global response to this modern day crisis is based on systems that were created almost seventy years ago. A reluctance to incorporate new technology and infrastructure into refugee response procedures has resulted in antiquated international structures that fail to help people fleeing from conflict. With 68.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, a figure that is expected to climb as climate change worsens, it is imperative that political mechanisms are updated to accommodate this crisis in a humane way. One of the main issues that refugees face is unemployment. With institutional barriers to work, lack of proof of accreditation, and a growing education gap, it is difficult for refugees to access jobs. While changes in policy are needed to structurally address this issue, improvements in technology have the potential to open doors and provide opportunities for refugees to build new lives for themselves. There are many organizations that use technology both as a medium and a subject for career paths and educational opportunities that allow refugees to help themselves and improve their lives. These opportunities create ways for displaced people to create revenue without work permits, learn marketable skills that can travel with them, tap into global markets, and regain dignity. This conversation points to the intersection of technology and fiscal opportunity as a way to enrich the lives of refugees and provide solutions to modern problems.
Technology is rapidly changing the world around us, offering new ways for human rights defenders to use new tools to their advantage - machine learning is one of them.
Machine learning is a powerful tool that offers tremendous opportunities in the field of human rights. Machine learning can help us detect patterns of corruption to support advocacy, predict poverty to support policy change, and analyzing evidence of human rights violations for transitional justice. However, with these opportunities that machine learning provides, the same technology also raises significant human rights concerns. Algorithmic biases have the potential to completely change the lives of individuals, as well as reinforce and even accelerate existing social and economic inequalities: flawed facial recognition systems, misclassification of videos documenting war crimes as terrorist propaganda, and racist chatbots.
Our goal as human rights defenders is to distinguish between beneficial machine learning systems from harmful automated decision-making processes in order to minimize the risks and maximize the impact of new technologies in human rights work. A few good practices discussed include: fair and transparent machine learning algorithms, and close collaboration and open conversation with experts from these different fields.
Join New Tactics for a podcast conversation on the potential of podcasting in human rights activism and the power of narrative storytelling. Hosted by Gianna Brassil.
Following natural disasters or humanitarian crises, aid organization and well-meaning volunteers rush to the help of hurting communities. The large influx of people trying to deliver aid in a struggling region poses coordination and logistical challenges that make it difficult to effectively deliver aid in a comprehensive way. Furthermore, rural communities who bear the hardships of humanitarian crisis the most, often go overlooked or are physically located in areas that make aid delivery challenging. This conversation discusses obstacles to effective aid delivery and seeks to explore the ways NGOs have gone about improving the delivery of short and long-term aid.
The environment, development, and inequality have always been linked—for years, industrialization has contributed to rising levels of carbon dioxide and environmental damages that have caused inequality and hardship across societal and racial lines. Now, with the emergence of green technology, the potential for revolutionary changes in the energy sector have the capacity to not only heal environmental wounds but also promote social justice. When considering environmental sustainability, two central considerations emerge. One is the mitigation of environmental disasters that are caused by mankind. Another is the implementation of these strategies in a way that uplifts individuals and communities rather than contributing to injustice. In this conversation, experts examine the interplay of development, the environment, and justice as they explore how environmental solutions can further human rights.