“So Many Highlights”: Reflecting on 15 years of Human Rights Advocacy

This is reposted from the Center for Victims of Torture (https://www.cvt.org/blog/healing-and-human-rights/%E2%80%9Cso-many-highlights%E2%80%9D-reflecting-15-years-human-rights-advocacy)

Nancy L. Pearson, M.S.W., L.I.S.W., is the training manager for New Tactics in Human Rights. Here, she reflects on 15 years with New Tactics, and how her experiences intersect with the 10th anniversary of CVT Jordan.

In 2011, the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) initiative of New Tactics opened an office alongside CVT Jordan. It was the first time a CVT international services program and New Tactics program operated in the same city abroad. Why was this significant for the organization?

Because of that time in history. Arab Spring was underway. Volatility rose in the region. So not only was there an immense need for treatment and rehabilitation services, but people were very much interested in, clamoring for, resources on how to do human rights advocacy.

It's worth mentioning, though, that New Tactics had been working in the MENA region since 2009. And it wasn’t that New Tactics hasn’t collaborated with CVT’s International Services (IS) before – my first experience doing that was in 2003 when I joined the New Tactics program. I provided a seminar in Nepal for CVT’s International Capacity Building project, a program which provides training on specialized skills to clinicians in global locations, now known as PATH.

Our collaboration with CVT’s international clinical work goes back a long time.

Say more about your role with New Tactics and how it’s evolved.

I’m a social worker, so I was initially hired as a direct service social worker for CVT’s torture survivor clients in Minnesota, and as a trainer. My training focused on outreach—educating professionals, organizations and others in the community to learn more about CVT’s clients and generally about survivors of torture and war trauma.

I also served as director of social services for about a year before becoming the training manager for New Tactics in Human Rights.

For me, moving over to New Tactics was a great opportunity to combine my passion for community empowerment —coming from the social work tradition —and my experiences having worked nationally and internationally with NGOs on advocacy.

What do you remember about the launch of the New Tactics MENA initiative in Jordan?

In 2009, I conducted a New Tactics training in Jordan, and as a result, we not only received funding from the Dutch government but an offer to partner with the nonprofit human development organization, FHI360, formerly Family Health International

That’s also when CVT began to ramp up operations in Jordan, so we converged in the region at the same time.

Because of the partnership with FHI360, we were able to ground a batch of new trainers – nine from Jordan and two from Lebanon – in our Strategic Effectiveness Method, a five-step strategic approach for activists.

Over the years, our New Tactics trainers have contributed significantly to the ongoing development of the Strategic Effectiveness Method, especially in terms of training ideas, resources, and in the application of the method to advocacy campaigns that have advanced human rights at local and national levels.

What are some highlights from your work with New Tactics, particularly in the MENA region?

So many highlights! What’s been really rewarding is to see our New Tactics trainers in the Middle East –  whether they’re Jordanian, Lebanese, Egyptian or Tunisian – achieve a reputation of excellence.

Did you know that 13 countries from the MENA region have participated in our New Tactics trainings over the years? Our Strategic Effectiveness Method has really begun to take hold in a very exciting way, so the demand for New Tactics in the MENA region continues to increase.

In terms of collaboration, CVT’s IS team in Jordan provided significant operational staff support to our New Tactics office. And New Tactics provided one of our Strategic Effectiveness Method trainings to IS staff in Jordan, which certainly influenced the way in which they saw their work and did outreach.

We have greatly appreciated the availability of staff members in Jordan with advanced degrees. With our other IS programs, there just weren’t people on the ground who had the experience and training related to mental health and physiotherapy. The fact that CVT Jordan has had that and could expand on that has been significant.

What excites you most about this work?

Seeing the way in which people have been empowered to respond to problems in their communities, and in ways where they’re building bridges with other members of the community – local decision-makers, for instance – in order to address their issues in very positive ways.

Also, the credibility we’ve established. How New Tactics is known for being able to do human rights advocacy from this unique position of understanding what the cost can be for people who are advocating for their rights, and for providing a full range of resources, from prevention to restorative tactics. New Tactics just took this strategic process online, with the launch our online tactical map tool (TMT), which is incredibly exciting.

The combination of CVT’s rehabilitation services and the human rights advocacy that New Tactics promotes is so critical in the MENA region and elsewhere in the world. Especially right now when we’re seeing more restrictions related to human rights, particularly space for civil society to participate in governance. I think that tension is something that will continue to draw the demand for all aspects of CVT’s work.

Stay on top of the latest news from CVT’s New Tactics in Human Rights program here.

Click here to see more details about the work at CVT Jordan over the past ten years.

Funding for CVT’s rehabilitation work in Jordan is provided by the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration and the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.

Funding for CVT’s New Tactics in Human Rights MENA Initiative is provided by the National Endowment for Democracy, U. S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Jordan, and Global Affairs Canada