Training organizations to place their social justice work into the context of human rights, thereby providing advocates with a new set of tools and access to new alliances

The National Center for Human Rights Education (NCHRE) trains organizations in the United States to frame social justice issues as human rights issues. While many organizations in the United States work on social issues, few think of their work in terms of human rights.

In a 1997 poll conducted by NCHRE, over 90 percent of Americans did not know of the existence of the Univer­sal Declaration of Human Rights. To respond to this lack of understanding of human rights in the United States, NCHRE has created a human rights education curriculum for grassroots social justice organizations.

NCHRE also holds conferences, meetings and community events and has distributed nearly half a million copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In its training sessions, NCHRE emphasizes the universal nature of human rights by demonstrating that anyone can be either a perpetrator of abuse or a victim. NCHRE also teaches ways to protect human rights, particularly through education on the legal and technical aspects of human rights. Trainers then work with participants to de­velop human rights action plans to be used in their own communities.

Participants in the training sessions bring back to their organizations the ideas and skills learned in the work­shops, increasing exponentially the reach of NCHRE’s work. Since its creation, NCHRE has trained over 16,000 social justice advocates in human rights. A number of the groups trained by NCHRE have used a human rights framework to make positive changes in their communities. The Georgia Citizens Coalition on Hunger, for ex­ample, used human rights-based arguments to persuade the state legislature to pass the first minimum wage increase in more than 30 years.

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

What we can learn from this tactic: 

Because many people in developed countries see the term “human rights” only in relation to the developing world, human rights concepts and ideals can seem far-removed and foreign. This attitude can lead to a damag­ing complacency, something a group in the United States is working to combat.

NCHRE is countering a pervasive attitude in both the government and the general public that human rights principles are not relevant in the United States and that human rights problems, as such, do not exist there. To groups already fighting problems like hunger, poverty and homelessness NCHRE provides a new tactic. When these groups start framing their work in a new way, they may recognize new allies and may be able to attract new people to their cause.