Compiling human rights education success stories to learn from the experiences of others


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The Asia-Pacific Regional Resource Center for Human Rights Education (ARRC) compiles human rights education success stories to benefit the field of human rights education and to serve as an inspiration to disadvantaged groups.

ARRC began in Thailand in June 2002 by documenting stories of people’s experiences and reflections on working in the field of human rights education in Asia and the Pacific. This effort was a response to a need on several levels for documentation of human rights successes. At a time of unrest in South East Asia, with such everyday problems as war, poverty, and cynicism, there is a great need for success stories to promote optimism. This project is intended to benefit NGOs by publicizing their efforts, increasing funding opportunities, and serving as a source of inspiration and encouragement to disadvantaged groups. This project is a further aid to the field of human rights as it brings together success stories which can then serve as a model for future successes.

ARRCs tactic involves three parts. The first is the collection of stories to create a database of information about successful human rights education efforts. Secondly, the information is made available to the public through print media, word of mouth, and the internet. Finally, the stories are analyzed to find the common elements that led to their success.

ARRC collected 40 stories within one year. The stories are published in a quarterly journal and in a book titled Making a Difference which was printed in English, Thai, and Burmese. Its work was also used in the research study "A Study on Participatory Methodology of Human Rights Education Methodologies in the Asia Pacific." One such story is about The Inter Mountain Peoples Education and Culture in Thailand Association (IMPECT) which established the Gender Capacity Building Program to focus on empowering indigenous communities for the protection of their human rights. IMPECT works to impart a deeper understanding of co-existence, shared work, and participation between genders. By educating whole communities about gender, it becomes understood that the presence and participation of women are important to the development of the community. In many cases, this has provided women's groups with more opportunities and has encouraged their active participation in decision-making and developmental activities at the local level.

The response to ARRCs work was mostly positive. People were eager to share their stories, and Amnesty International recognized the value of ARRCs work at a recent human rights education meeting. While there has been a donor fatigue in supporting human rights education trainings, this program has also influenced funding institutions. Stories from the field about how human rights education can change the lives of ordinary people help to attract monetary support, thus strengthening the initiatives of organizations throughout the region.

There were several challenges to this project.

  • While initial response to the request for stories was large due to ARRC vast network, many who promised to contribute did not follow through. ARRC recommends attention to follow-up with contributors to make sure they submit their stories. Also offering small awards to those who contribute can serve as an incentive. They urge those using this tactic to be proactive rather than waiting for the stories to come to them. It may be necessary to actively seek out individuals or organizations who might be able to contribute.
  • There were also problems with organizations submitting stories that only described the organization and not the impact on the beneficiaries. To address this, ARRC searched for ways to interview the beneficiaries, either by sending an interviewer or requesting that the sender do so.
  • Another problem ARRC had to address was the issue of how to determine success. It urges other groups to develop more efficient and comprehensive ways of measuring the effectiveness of human rights education from the outset of the project.

According to ARRC, groups wishing to use this tactic should consider budgeting for a translator. The submissions ARRC received were in many different languages, and the translation process is much faster with a paid translator. Groups should also keep other human rights organizations in mind and work with them when possible. They should also meet regularly with all staff to make sure everyone is working together towards the same long-term goals.

While the collection of human rights education success stories is important work, ARRC believes that there are other important goals in the field of human rights education as well. These include the development and support of human rights education institutions and the improvement of government policies.

ARRC, a regional NGO, works to institutionalize human rights and serves as a network for human rights education. 

New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.