In the best of times, human rights advocacy requires constant tactical innovation. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in late 2019 generated huge additional challenges. In early 2020, the African Network against Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances (ANEKED) in The Gambia was working on creating an in-person traveling memorialization exhibition of their “The Duty to Remember” project. They planned the launch as part of Human Rights Week 2020 organized by the University of Geneva in Switzerland.
Remembering Victims and Abuses
In many conflicts, the line between sufferer and perpetrator is often blurred. In the aftermath of violence, the time comes for survivors, soldiers and innocents alike, to return home and heal collectively. This process gives rise to many problems—ex-combatants face stigmas and mental health problems, a lack of employable skills or education, and an absence of community ties. Meanwhile, non-combatants deal with their own traumas, the realities of living in a war torn society, and anger towards military groups. The reintroduction of former soldiers into society at large is crucial to building lasting peace and stability because without it many ex-combatants, devoid of ties to community or resources for self-sufficiency, would return to their guerrilla groups or armies. However, Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) programs must overcome many barriers to succeed. In this conversation, experts discuss the challenges and tactics of achieving effective reintegration of ex-combatants into society.
Reconciliation and peacebuilding rest upon knowing as complete a picture as possible of the nature, causes, and extent of gross violations of human rights that have been committed. Investing in the education of youth is important because it expands their worldview and challenge stereotypes. By successfully doing so, youth can actively participate in shaping lasting peace and contribute to justice and reconciliation in their respective societies. For example, Canada has integrated meaningful reconciliation into classrooms and workshops to help learn about its history of colonization and think creatively about the future. South Africa has also recognized the importance of educational reform in order to address the problem of reconciliation and conflict transformation in youth. The importance of empowering youth to engage and take an active role in non-violence, dialogue, and reconciliation was at the center of this conversation of the potential roles that youth can take in truth and reconciliation at both the local and global level.
In 2012, the International Labor Organization estimated that nearly 21 million people were victims of human trafficking, including approximately 5.5 million children, trafficked primarily into forced labor and sexual exploitation. The need for victim related services is great and, sadly, growing. Victim services range from legal assistance to safe havens; employment training to mental health rehabilitation.
In this conversation summary, resources, approaches and examples were shared to assist practitioners fighting against human trafficking. Conversation leaders discussed communication and institutional barriers to providing services to trafficked persons.
Daily headlines around the globe portray the numerous conflicts that arise as a result of heated points of contention. Seemingly disparate ideologies, unequal distribution of resources, political, ethnic, cultural and religious differences can all be contributing factors in the emergence of conflict between groups. In the aftermath of conflict, what role can reconciliation play as a path forward; toward healing, peaceful relations, improved communication and functioning societies?
Where does the process of reconciliation begin, with whom and when? These questions and more were discussed in New Tactics in Human Rights Conversation - Reconciliation Post-Conflict: Approaches, Practices and Realities. This online conversation sought to identify the role of reconciliation in post-conflict environments. Practitioners shared experiences, lessons learned, approaches, and challenges with the reconciliation process from the perspective of reconciliation efforts around the world.
Human 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.
Forensic science has been a powerful tool in the scientific documentation of human rights violations around the world, and especially in Latin America. The Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team has been in the forefront of efforts to train human rights NGOs to use forensic tools to advance their investigations, to provide more support for victims and to strengthen the credibility of their work against impunity.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Peru is one of the most recent examples of the processes of transitional justice, institutionalized with the aim of exploring the truth hidden behind a past characterized by massive abuse of human rights. One of the central activities in this process is the Public Audiences, created with the aim of legitimizing and dignifying the personal experiences of the victims in order to support the therapeutic and recuperative work on their behalf.
Year of Publication: 2004
Author(s): Sofia Macher
Documentary Heritage is a program of Memoria Abierta (Open Memory), whose goal is to improve the use of and access to the documentation stored in the institutional archives of participating human rights organizations. The Documentary Heritage Program seeks to make all of the documentation related to the period of state terrorism and its present consequences accessible for research and educational purposes, thereby increasing knowledge and contributing to a social conscience about what occurred in Argentina.
The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) developed the concept of “briefers” to install a victim-friendly process. Victims were provided with the opportunity to testify and be supported before, during and after the process. The TRC selected briefers—chosen from the caring professions, such as ministers, social workers and nurses—from the community to provide this support. The briefers acted as volunteers and were trained to perform various tasks with regard to the entire structural process of the TRC.