United States

Independently collecting air-quality data on the community level in order to pressure for change

Many communities across the United States have begun or joined “bucket brigades” programs that teach people living near industrial polluters to build and use simple air monitoring devices, or “buckets,” which have been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In the absence of strong environmental laws, standards or enforcement bodies, buckets give communities the means to independently monitor the air quality of their neighborhoods and provide them with evidence to pressure for change.

Encouraging local governments, organizations and individuals to oppose, through the use of education and resources, federal legislation that endangers human rights

In the United States, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) creates tools and resources to help local advocates of the Bill of Rights educate members of local governments and communities about how federal anti­terrorism legislation and policies violate their rights. Many of the local groups work with their city, town or county governments to formally register opposition to violations of civil liberties, passing resolutions or ordinances up­holding the Bill of Rights.

The Power of Place: How historic sites can engage citizens in human rights issues

Someone working on a large mapHuman rights activists as well as the museum community can make effective use of the spatial impact of historic sites to help educate people about social change and human rights. The Tenement Museum in New York City has joined with more than a dozen other institutions that have focused their attention on “sites of conscience”—places where terrible human rights abuse has occurred that should never be forgotten. Their goal is not only to remember the past, but also to use the emotional power of these places to catalyze critical thinking about the ongoing social issues of today, through dialogue and educational activities.

Side by Side: Protecting and encouraging threatened activists with unarmed international accompaniment

A volunteer working with a human rights defenderSince the mid-1980s, human rights groups and other activist organizations being targeted with repressive abuses have been calling on international NGOs to provide them with direct accompaniment by international field workers. These field workers — usually volunteers — spend twenty-four hours a day with threatened activists, at the premises of threatened organizations, in threatened communities or witnessing public events organized by threatened groups. The international presence serves as a deterrent against the use of violence. In order to ensure this deterrence, these international accompaniment organizations are part of transnational networks poised and ready to mobilize political pressure against perpetrators should their volunteers witness any attacks or should their clients be further threatened.

Reparations: Using civil lawsuits to obtain reparation for survivors of human rights abuses and to challenge the impunity of their abusers

Group of citizens holding a posterThe Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) represents survivors using the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) and the Torture Victim Protection Act, which gives both U.S. citizens and noncitizens alike the right to sue human rights abusers who live in or visit the United States. CJA has effectively used these acts to help end the possibility of abusers using the U.S. as a safe haven, to assist survivors in gaining reparations, and to break the silence that has enabled abusers to live in impunity.

Recipe for Dialogue: Corporate training for building relationships with Indigenous communities

Image of a group of people talking in the forestThe NGO Business for Social Responsibility and First Peoples Worldwide, an Indigenous advocacy organization, collaborated to help the private sector build more effective, constructive relationships with indigenous people.  Their corporate training initiatives, which are focused on extractive companies (mining, oil, gas and logging), are founded on respect for Indigenous peoples’ rights, aspirations and effective participation in the development process.

Citizen monitoring of courts as a means of creating system change

WATCH has developed a highly effective court monitoring method involving citizen volunteers as a means of creating legal and policy system change and improving the administration of justice for victims of abuse. WATCH volunteers first entered a courtroom in Hennepin County, Minnesota (USA) in March 1993. Since that time WATCH trains 50 volunteers each year who, along with staff, monitor more than 4,500 court hearings regarding sexual assault, child abuse, and domestic violence cases. They are immediately recognized by the red clipboards they carry.

Certifying companies based on an internationally recognizable standard to improve labor conditions

Social Accountability International (SAI) has developed a set of voluntary corporate social responsibility standards called SA 8000. SA 8000 includes a code of conduct for labor conditions, based on established international standards, and a verification system to ensure compliance. In order for a company to receive SA 8000 certification, it must pass monitoring inspections by SAI-certified auditors. The auditors closely monitor the companies before and after certification to ensure their capability to comply with the standards and to require their collaboration with local experts.

Building coalitions to affect local, regional and international policy using a rights and health-based approach

The need for building coalitions among diverse constituency groups at local, national, and international levels grew out of the recognition that individual actors could not take on large corporate or government pesticide policies alone. For example, pesticide activists faced formidable, well-funded opposition to Proposition 128, known as the “Big Green Campaign,” which called for the end of hazardous pesticide use in California.

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