Welcome to the discussion! We thought we'd start this conversation by looking at why it can be hard to maintain momentum and commitment, and how groups are overcoming these challenges with innovative tactics to keep momentum going. Consider these questions below when sharing your comments in this discussion topic:
- Based on your experience what have you seen that causes momentum to slow down or drop? Let's look into the reasons before we talk about how to deal with lost or slowed down momentum.
- How to deal with counter strategies that are used in order to discredit human rights defenders over time? Share examples of what has worked and what hasn’t worked. Are there opportunities to move forward on this issue together?
- How are groups maintaining and nurturing the commitment of their supporters over long periods of time?
- How are groups addressing lost faith, or simply indifference with the general public?
- What resources have you found that are helpful?
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I'm really excited we're having this discussion this week. It seems that many human rights groups are coming under (increasing?) threat these days, and more generally the commitment to human rights seems to be slowly slipping away. Why is that? There are probably many different reasons: partly, maybe, because human rights work takes time, creating lasting social change takes time, and people simply loose focus because it all takes too long. Also, in some countries maybe people have become complacent, thinking all has been achieved and there is nothing left that is really worth fighting for; and again in other countries the human rights narrative has become discredited, either because it has been incorporated in the official rethorics of the day, or because it is being associated with 'alien interests', for example with advocating for LGBT rights which are then portrayed as being Western, decadent influences, or because it is associated with revolution, disorder and chaos, as maybe in Egypt. Another issue if of course how human rights are placed in the human rights versus security dichotomy, as if the two cannot go together, and people opt for security over human rights. For this dialogue we'd like to look into the reasons why it is difficult to 'keep it going' so to speak.
In addition to this, there are the strategies anti-human rights advocates use to discredit those working for human rights. For example in Kenya, human rights groups are increasingly attacked, anonymously or using false names, on social media and in comments on online newspaper articles. The attacks follow a consistent pattern: human rights groups are paid by 'The West', are agents or spies of 'The West', are just in it for the money, want to topple the Government and have no real base in Kenya. Also, the attacks are sometimes really agressive and personal. As a result, a perception is created as if human rights are not really 'Kenyan' or even 'African'.
In situations like these: how do we manage to keep going on? Do we make use of humour, do we change tactics, do we shift our focus to issues that are more directly a concern for a larger group of people?
Really looking forward to reading your contributions!
Hi all! Nice to be here and very interesting questions for discussion!
There will always be many who are against and have things to lose from human rights evolving, but as I see it, the politization of, and sometimes double agendas in, human rights are among its worst enemies since they gives the critics arguments which have some (SOME) validity.
I would like to pick up on onw of your points Anneke, possibly throwing some sticks on bad fires (or you will throw sticks at me..), but. what can we do about the fact that funding actually pften DOES come from the west, and sometimes also initiatives? If we talk about developing countries here, human rights principles of self-determination, participation, people having a real say in how their lives develop, including what is at all on the agenda - "ownership" in a deeper sense, are a challenge to comply with when initiatives come "from outsiders" even if there is consultation. We can be defensive about this (and most often rightly so), but I find it important to look honestly at the arguments, and the root causes for the arguments, of the critics. We're among friends here so taking the grain of truth in what they blame us (non-developing world human rights proffessionals - I'm one of them) - how can we make sure they are wrong?
Interesting point Helena. I think it works in two ways meaning: Because it is funded from the outside or driven by an international aid agency we don't really subscribe to it and give it our best push although we believe in the cause but we feel the driver is not the right one- so we remain lukewarm. It also works the other way, some organizations depend on the outside funding and need -say- one more year of action defending or documenting or changing the narrative on a specific human right to reach a tipping point. But the funding is not renewed and then comes a lull in their work until they sort things out. We trained once a women's rights organization, one of their funders had paid for 4 lawyers to provide free legal aid for women to protect their rights for custody and alimony after divorce. After the end of the first year, the donor did not continue the funding. Ok it happens. But I ask what do you/we ask the "donors" in both cases so that the donors know the impact of their intervention and how it is designed on momentum.
Thank you for starting this very interesting discussion thread! When I read he_le_nita's reply to Anneke's comment, I was reminded of an ongoing debate about the role of international funders in local human rights work. It reminded me that sometimes, human rights groups take risks regarding their credibility (unfortunately) when they accept funding from certain institutions. And as he_le_nita pointed out, human rights groups can be discredited by their opponents because of their funders. (And there is an interesting debate on openGlobalRights as to whether it is strategic or not for human rights groups to take international funding). But it makes me wonder if there's more that we as human rights groups can do to support each other in response to these critiques...
And it was so interesting to read Nisreen's response to this thread in which she explains how (inconsistent and unreliable) funding can be detrimental to a campaign's momentum.
Are there other ways in which funding impacts the ability for human rights groups to maintain momentum, commitment, and/or credibility? Are there any examples out there of ways to address these challenges?
I look forward to reading more from all of you!
Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder
Re the funding issue. Yes I do think it is relevant and foreign funding is definitely being used to discredit human rights groups. And helena, I like the stick you threw in, as I think there is some validity to this kind of critique, as of course the funders have an interest in their funding!
I always think it would be great if human rights groups could in fact raise their own funds, locally, which would make it stronger against this kind of critique. However, I am aware that in many countries it is simply not common for people to and volunteer for an organization and pay for it (even though in some instances I do think there is a large enough constituency that could do so, ie the middle class).
On another note, I also am inclined to think we all make ourselves too dependent on funding, as there are lots of things that can be done that really don't require much money.
To throw in another stick: it is true that staff of human rights organizations, exactly because of the foreign funding (and the professionalization that sometiems comes with it, a point GG referred to below), sometimes make relatively good salaries, compared to their friends working in the corporate or public sector. I remember meeting a university graduate in Paraguay, some years ago, asking me if I could get him a job in a human rights organization, as it was good money. It clearly had very little to do with being motivated for the advancement of the human rights agenda!
I completely agree with you Anneke that there are many types of interventions, perhaps even very efficient ones, which don't cost (much) money. I'm thinking strategic lobbying for policy reforms, political pressure or awareness raising based on solidarity movements etc. A nice concept for various reasons, already used by many organisations, is to raise more funds through solidarity networks/memberships etc. For instance using already very successful online campaigns which mobilise a lot of moral support from around the globe - diverse and not linked to foreign policy of a particular country. I'm quite sure many of the current "slacktivists" would be happy to contribute also financially.
I agree with Nisreen on the impact of funding.In some cases an organization is willing to advance the rights of vulnerable groups , gets a funder once and given that access to funding is competitive, they may not get a proposal for the second or third year or may get a funder who does not fund advocacy work, as such this result to the momentum slowing down in case the organization has not put forward multiple proposals in the same period.
Hey Anneke. Interesting post. Want to engage you on one point you made. It takes time- "because human rights work takes time, creating lasting social change takes time, and people simply loose focus because it all takes too long." How does the perseverence of informal activists group compare to community based centers to parties and movement?
Working with various campaigns, I see some difference. While informal groups of activists come together and ignite a spart or react to an urgent need, after the first or second round (win or loose) they need to go back to their lives and its competiting demands. While organizations- depending on funding- often have the ability to sustain a longer effort for a year or two - organizing the community perhaps on low fire and not with as much passion. Movements and parties have the ability to move from one campaign to the other all under the same cause - say women's rights.
I find that maintaining the momentum over time takes the dance of the various players understanding who moves when and why. Their dance is often not coordinated or harmonious but it serves the cause. We were working with a group of youth who moved to action against the immenent threat to confiscate their land. They moved because of the threat and because of the inaction of the movements, parties and organizations. Once they made some noise and some action, the parties and organzations felt compelled to move for the cause and to guard their area of influence on the street. Sometimes it is difficult to bring them all to a coordinated plan or even to the table but understanding the impact of each on the other and the role of each one will help us keep the momentum. Tarrow talkes more about this in his book Power in Movement Chapter six.
I like your point that there is a difference in how groups can sustain commitment to a cause. Working for an (inter)national human rights organization (with, as you point out, likely to have more funding), where people work for the rights of people living on the other side of the world (so to speak), is quite different from a group that works for an issue they are directly and daily dealing with in their very own environment - and possibly facing more direct harassment as a result of it as well. Maybe we could explore a bit more the differences in maintaining the momentum for an intenational, a national and a local group?
In my view, to maintain momentum for a local group lies in the energy among the group members and their level of commitment.For instance in a case of addressing crime among youth in a given locality, the group members come together after identification of the problem that affects them all.Then coming together with strategies of addressing the crime, be it formation of neighbourhood watch groups, engagement of "idle " youth in the neighbourhood with activities such as sports as an alternative to crime and seeking out income generating activities to make them busy.The other relevant aspect of maintaining momentum at the grassroots is taking stock of what they have achieved and continous learning and sharing to add zeal to the human rights issues being pursued.
Thanks Leonida! I especially appreciate your point about continuous learning and sharing and how that adds momentum. Do others have examples of how individuals and communities are inspired by the opportunity to learn and share with peers? Or building their capacity for direct action? I suppose we all want to be better at what we do and especially what we're passionate about. I wonder if organizations are tapping into this curiosity for learning (learning tactics, tools, skills, etc).
- Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder
This is a good point you bring in here. Africa as a custodian of human rights or the "West" being behind human rights defenders. This is an argument that is used often when we have exerted pressure on the state, it is a defensive mechanism that they have to persuade perceptions, maybe discredit activists and it is not honest at all. Most of the states who use this language are funded in most times funded by the same west powers.
How this kills the momentum is that some HRDs are forced to engage with the state actors to correct the prceptions. This takes to much time and energey most of the times since then at this stagethere are secondary attacks to individuals.
I do tot have a solution for this aspect but I am listening to the global experiences. Maybe actually the understanding on the principals of human rights are not well known by some stae actors; they alienate some rights from others, make declarations that the state gives some rights already and they have already given too much. This is wrong and unfortunately misinformed approach from the state parties.
Anneke has also raised the issue of attacks physically, online and sometimes in the offices, in this case I think the perpetrators see violence as the solution and most times they believe they can get away with it.
In connection to that - and to the debate about funding - it is true that very often the fact that human rights groups are funded by Western powers is used as to discredit them, while at the same time the authorities take all sorts of funding from 'the West', and send their kids to school, hospitals, get their lawyers from 'the West' etc is never seen as a reason to discredit them. It shows how twisted the debate is.
On my experience in the East Africa region, the political context is quite dynamic. There have been moments when the human rights movements have come in as one force against a common national human rights agenda, times that that force of human rights movement is in time with the needs of the population. This in effect has the population supporting human rights movement; demonstrations, organization, mass communication, community protection for HRDs etal, and, a few human rights movement leaders are recognized as the new hope for the nation.
However like in the case of Kenya when multi parties were established and Kenya started working on a roadmap to a new constitution, some movement leaders joined politics, others had state jobs while quite a number could operate NGOs freely with no detention or closures. Forces at that time got caught up in other initiatives and enjoying the new freedoms. Little time went to organizing the movements of feedback to primary stakeholders on expectations.
In this case scenario, the momentum from within the human rights movement disintegrate to fit into the new social space, the masses then in turn slow down and sentiments like who benefits from the struggle start. The new scenario is not immediate human rights threats but nothing fulfilling is being seen. There is some level of professionalizing the human rights work, quite a number of the activists who in cases are expelled from universities due to their participation in the struggles are now required to produce degrees to be employed in the new structured NGOs/ human rights institutions. They lack the documents and hence some of the employees who get those jobs do not have the background and institutional memories of the struggle. They are professionals. The NGOs are more structured.
The situation of human rights now starts showing challenges that to my opinion slow down the momentum; no common objectives at the beginning, managing expectation to realistic levels is not clear, roles and responsibilities are not well defined as there is a level of faith in the struggle, some individuals take credit of what achievements are taken, no correct documentation and archiving of the struggle and immediate threats are mitigated by high momentum.
Gitahi - thanks for sharing the experience in kenya. quick question, why do you think "correct documentation and archiving of the struggle" is important for maintaining the momentum? do you mean telling the story of the struggle in a way that show how the experiences accumulate so as to build momentum?
The story always changes angles depending on the source. Point of view differs and erodes with time. In the case of defamation in East Africa, HRDs are left with word of mouth about the process of organissing, the perpetrators at that time and sacrifices made. Now there are efforts for defamation "evil society" being used in Kenya by people who are beneficiaries of the struggle. I think people need to tell their stories rather that wait for the good work to show what we did
GG makes an excellent point regarding the professionalisation of human rights. There is now a kind of human rights market that doesn't necessarily directly correspond to the effective enhancement of human rights. What we need are accessible strategies that everybody can participate in, such as documenting any corruption or intimidation with photo/video on phones and sharing them publicly. Projects like these are owned by everybody and as they grow to become commonplace, encourage a cultural paradigm shift. They require very little outside funding. Hiring patterns can also be re-assessed for better effectivity.
The essence of "being African" is categorised by the ability to live a fully human life, and fundamentally human rights abuses serve only to dehumanise. Power-wielders in Africa are known to criticise their opponents for being less African - but these accusations always have at least a trace of hypocrisy which can be leveraged by human rights defenders for media value. Criticism from one's opponent is generally a good sign we are doing our work well. Ignoring false accusations has its tactical place as well.
An nice example of an accessible strategy is the website: www.ipaidabribe.com where people can report whether they were asked for a bribe, and what they did with it, if they paid: how much, and if not: how they managed not to pay the bribe. The website I believe was developed in India but is now used in other countries as well, incl Kenya.
Thanks Anneke for the excellent resource. We should create a platform like this is Uganda where authorities feel very little pressure that they are being monitored.
Thank you Anneke for this link, I will be glad to see if it works outside India.
This brings in a question that we all like to avoid, are all HRDs accountable? are there perceptions at times that HRDs are benefitting more that other primary stakeholders; victims and witnesses? do we have HRDs outliving their time of services and not naturing continuity throughempowering more HRDs and leaving positions of power? ...
I assume that all the reflection above, if looked at point of view of HRDs, victims, witnesses as well as other actors like state may inform the effects such could have on momentum.
Some of the attacks that are directed to civil society may be since some of them may not be able to account in the same manner they are asking the state actors and perpetrators. Is this a call for implicit evaluation continously..
People have made some really interesting points so far. I enjoyed Nisreen's comment "I find that maintaining the momentum over time takes the dance of the various players understanding who moves when and why." Movements are truly a dance and keeping up good external and internal communications are a huge necessity in keeping the momentum going.
With internal communications you have to keep all levels of supporters and partners engaged and up to date about what is happening. Whether its your board of directors or university students or other members. One problem is everyone communicates and receives communications in different ways - some people use Facebook, some want emails, some want face to face. Some people want the statistics. Some people want the compelling stories. There's now so many different platforms possibilities with new media, that it can be hard to decide which ones to use and how best to use them -- especially if you are an NGO or CBO with limited resources. It's so important to know your internal audience and what they want and how best to get it to them. Similar with your external communications as well - it's really important to be as strategic as possible with your media and your message. People need to know what is happening and who is doing what, AND why are we fighting.
What I saw with my years with the Burma movement was a definite message fatigue. It was a struggle against a decades old dictatorship that for years didn't really seem to have an end in sight - so figuring out how to keep our supporters strongly engaged as well keep Burma in the press was always an issue. Telling the same story over and over didn't help though - even though that was the reality. We couldn't just keep on posting on Facebook news of an abuse or village being burned down - we had to find new ways to capture people's attention and keep the stories fresh…otherwise people besides our dedicated core get fatigued. Consistent communications is important but also creative communications too. Try out new tools and platforms to help visualize the why of this struggle better - use interactive maps, videos, audio interviews, info graphics etc. There is always so much complexity in a human rights struggle - use different mediums to help tell that complexity.
It can also be really hard with human rights activism because there is the stigma of being so pessimistic. This has been an issue too with Burma ever since the 2010 elections and the military junta has been doing a complicated PR dance of democratization. In this situation many governments and IGOs want to hear the good news and not the lamentations of human rights groups. This though is a common problem -- how to speak of the real problems, but not turn people away with continual morose tales. So much to say on this topic -- but since we are just laying out some of the issues now would love to hear what others have to say.
Solidarity Uganda and Thelma NYC 's comments made me think of the use of numbers in maintaining momentum or creating urgency. In two ways: first with the general public - nationally and internationally and second internally in our campaign/movement community. Documenting and archiving cases effectively to communicate them through stories or info graphs (good example of an old still alive topic visualizingpalestine.org or through interactive documentaries effects readiness to act or continue acting. As important is the use of numbers for the commitment and drive of the members, organizers and campaigners. For example, two social change campaigns led by Ruwwad in Jordan (the 6 Minutes campaign and the Safe Homes campaign) took the time to develop its campaign metrics to count 1. campaign members, 2. tactics and 3. impact. They set a target for how many one on ones or how many homes they want to reach or how many people to reach or how many signatures on the petition. The target number is announced and they start working and counting progress. Sometimes when the momentum is down they make a push for the number or celebrate a number milestone.
The other set of numbers in a metrics is the impact of the campaign - be it coverage in the newspapers, or discussion in the parliament, or letters to the minister. While they have not achieved the change yet, counting and announcing the numbers to the campaign community (and sometimes outside it) gives the organizers a push and it attracts new members to the effort.
And the third set counted is our campaign members and leaders. Counting that and keeping an eye to its increase (or decrease) is important for two reasons. Deliberately recruiting brings in freshness and energy affecting the momentum. Announcing the numbers brings in new people too - success is attractive. Paying attention to the increase in count gives you a reading of the lull a bit ahead of time for you to design an intervention or a protect the moral of your team. (see this power point for more- http://www.slideshare.net/nisreenhaj/power-with-campaigns-leading-change-network-learning-room-samar-dudin)
Hi All, Thanks for the great discussion. Apologies for joining late, but yesterday was a holiday here, and I was taking advantage of my UDHR Art. 24 right to rest and leisure (important for maintating momentum too)!
The Jordanian example Nisreen shared is a good counter to the challenge many of us face here in the U.S. of demonstrating incremental progress on long-term human rights campaigns. The U.S. domestic human rights movement has been working for the past decade in a relatively organized way to advance a human rights frame on domestic policy issues. There was some initial interest from funders who recognized that they needed to be involved for "the long-term" but even after only 5 or 6 years started to get frustrated with the lack of visible progress. However, just in the past year or two have we started to see the fruit of seeds that were planted close to a decade ago. Just this past month, the US Interagency Council on Homelessness finished a month-long blog and article series on human rights (see http://usich.gov/issues/human-rights) - the first time any domestic agency has ever addressed a domestic policy issue as a human rights issue in this head-on way, and a sign that we are truly changing the baseline of our conversation to one about human rights. This would not have happened without the consistent cultivation we have been doing over the past 10 years. Luckily, we have been able to cobble together funding to continue our human rights advocacy, but the pot is getting smaller and smaller. And even this success is just a small step on the way to actual substantive change (getting the human right to housing implemented in the U.S.) - are some blog posts, no matter how unprecedented, enough to satisfy funders, or other advocates who need to know if the human rights bandwagon is one they want to get on?
How can we show progress when the real progress we want to see is measured in decades, not years (let alone a 12 or even 24 month grant cycle)? Thanks to Nisreen for sharing the above, I'd be interested in hearing other thoughts/examples as well!
My view on this is to document the milestones achieved and to periodically share where the struggle came from and where currently it is .For instance in Kenya , the call for multiparty politics from the one party state was something achieved over years , people got arrested , some had to seek asylum in other countries.Thus the milestones achieved will ignite people not to give up on the struggle and reflect that despite the long walk , some achievements have been made from the initial inception of a struggle
Eric and Leonida - great points. Measuring progress in human rights work is so difficult. And measuring milestones is a great approach. I recently came across this article that shares 3 case studies of human rights organizations that have addressed this issue. I hope it might be helpful to you.
I'm inclined to propose that we plan on hosting an online discussion around monitoring and evaluation for human rights work at some point. Anyone interested?
Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder
Great points, Nisreen! Finding indicators that show real progress is hard (as Eric points out below), but with a bit of creativity we should all be able to find some numbers that reflect the work we're doing, some of the impact we're having and what we're achieved.
Last year, we hosted a great discussion on Visualizing Information for Advocacy (with lots of great tools and tactics) in partnership with Tactical Tech, who developed the Drawing By Numbers tookit. This toolkit helps advocates find creative ways to visualize their information, and helps them to do it accurately. I hope it's helpful!
Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder
So far this conversation touches on the relationship of the following to momentum:
I want to share a couple of stories on the last one: character assassinations or discrediting the activists or leaders. I remember coaching a campaign where the opposition was spreading a rumor that the main organizer is actually a spy or an agent for the opposition. At first the activist - like me- thought ignore it or we will be making a thing out of it. Not worth the response. But as he sensed a change in how people dealt with him and as one person approached him saying this rumor is circulating he didn’t want to sit and wait. He presented the situation and the rumor to his the core team of the campaign who spoke about it openly (instead of doubting him quietly) and then they called a few of the public opinion leaders in their society and explained the situation asking them to commend the activist in question and associate themselves with him openly with pride.
These are simple stories but teach in my opinion simple lessons about not ignoring attempts to discredit you if you are an activist. It does not have to be either: ignore their attempts my work speaks for me or play to the hands of the opposition and start talking about the rumor yourself. If you are an organized campaign or movement then you are blessed with a core team around you, build an internal front, then with them build a supportive narrative around the activist in the community.
One other small anecdote, a friend of mine is an activist in Tunisia whom I coached his story of self. He resisted sharing his story of publicly or even in lectures and house meetings, he was later attacked that he belongs to some American leadership program to proof that he is an American agent. He regretted not telling his story because that would have explained the circumstances of his affiliation to the leadership program at an American university. A tactic to counter character assassination is to tell your story as an activist at the get go. Don't wait until others construct it on your behalf. Tell a story that does not promote you as a hero or superstar but one that is human and real of a person who exercised choice in a context based on a clear value.
SINCE 1989, I have taken part in the Egyptian struggle for human rights. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS AND the MUBARK REGIME WAS ALWAYS BAD- tHE REGIM IMPOSED A LOT OF PRESSURE ON cIVIL SOCIETY AS A WHOLE, AND NGOS WORKING IN CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS in particular. Fittingly, MOST OBSERVERS BELIEVE THAT CIVIL SOCITY PLAYED A pivotal ROLE IN THE 25TH REVOLUTION AND the subsequent fall of the MUBARK REGIME.
SINCE THE REVOLUTION, CIVIL SOCIETY has DEMANDED THE TRAIL OF ALL OFFICERS AND EX MUBARK OFFICIALS- AS THEY ARE seen as RESPONSIBLE for the loss of MANY HUMAN LIVES BEFORE, DURIND AND AFTER the events of 25TH OF JAN.
SINCE THE COOP OF 30TH OF JUNE, AND THE RETURN OF MILITARY TO THE POLITICAL SCENE, THE MILITARY IS PUTTING A LOT OF PRESSURE ON THE NGOS FOR TWO REASONS:
These pressures include:
However gloomy the situation in Egypt may seem, there is still hope for positive developments in the near future.
In short the civil society in egypt is under siege.
Thank you for sharing this, Sameh! Can you share more about how civil society in Egypt is able to purge itself of complacent and apathetic NGOs? Is there a process? Is it open? Very curious to learn more!
Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder
We've discussed how to deal with outside character assasinations towards human rights activists - but often what can hinder the momentum of a movement is internal fighting. A campaign can get so weighed down by personality politics and people wanting to bring others down. I would love to hear people's thoughts about how to deal with this.
Hi Thelma, A good question about a situation that we're probably all too familiar with. It's not going to work in every situation, but I find that starting collaborations or conversations within ongoing collaborations by making explicit the premise that we're all working on behalf of oppressed peoples, and there's enough other people out there attempting to keep us down without us tearing down each other can hopefully cause everyone to give themselves a check before they start working at counter-purposes. Like I said, there may be some times it won't work. But I've had more than one group visibly react to hearing it out loud, and I think it helps.
Thanks Eric and Thelma. Very difficult and very real. Wish "experts" write books about things like that :) I love when campaigns define their culture/values in the begining as they first form- before they get in muddy situations. They discuss their values explicitly, translate what it means and what it does not mean in practice and they run some imaginary scenarios to discuss where they stand. The campaign culture is then written up and parts of it are made public. The campaign culture or values oath helps people later have a "referee" that was agreed in the beginning. Like what Eric said - it is only an attempt and one that is not enough. The other thing I can think of is the the benefit of a frank conversation between those "fighting" if it takes place in front and with the team in a meeting setting and is well facilitated. It clarifies the reason for the fight that may have been a misunderstanding or gossip or what appears to be a push for self promotion or one person going against the campaigns interest or decisions. And maybe it settles the tension but if it does not at least it may contain it and prevent the spread of gossip and negative energy. They may at least commit to not publicize the differences or engage it going forward.
HRDs work under a legal framework; UN Declaration for HRDs (which is celebrating 15 years this year), Regional mechanisms, notably Intrer-American Court of Human Rights, The African Commission on Human and Peoples rights and EU Guidelines on HRDs. Relatively various constitutions do recognize HRDs and the work that they do. There are further mechanisms like special mechanisms, HRC statement on reprisals as well as National, Regional and International claim mechanisms.Despite the legality and the legal frameworks, HRDs continue to be exposed to risks. Defamation and character assassinations are some of the causes of risks that HRDs are exposed to. Therefore the element where we need as HRDs to improve our security;-meaning what we can do to mitigate risks and protection;- what others can do to help us mitigate high risks.Understanding of the risks that could culminate from character assassination will therefore assist HRDs to integrate measures to mitigate the same risks into their work. Security management therefore needs to be part of planning and implementation in HRDs work.The existing legal protection mechanisms are not adequate to protect HRDs, actually some of them are still struggling with the definition of “who is a HRD?”. It is worth to understand that there are strategies we are already using for security management, we need to evaluate and see they are; responsive, adaptable, sustainable, effective and reversible in case they do not work or the situation changes. This will also lead us to HRDs having security strategies with roles and responsibilities on how to prevent risks and also how to react in case the risks cause harm e.g. arrest, detention etal. In Africa, there are organizations that have come in to complement the role of the state to protect HRDs. East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network http://www.defenddefenders.org/ is one of the solutions for the region that offer advocacy, capacity and protection of HRDs. Mechanisms are in place to have a PanAfrica HRDs network.Internationally as well there are numerous organizations working with HRDs to increase safer working environment. Protection International http://protectioninternational.org/ is one such organizations working in Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe on research, networking and trainings that assist HRDs improve on safer working environment. There are resources that can be found in their website; http://protectionline.org/ .This topic will assist us all to network more and understand the stakeholders, defer risks and plan for eventualities that we think could cause harm to HRDs. Predicting and preparing for the factors discussed here within the week will be so valuable to keep the momentum, oblige states on protection and prepare victims and witnesses with more informed expectations. As a matter of fact the victims and witnesses should in this case form community protection for HRDs.