The Ligue des Droits de la Personne dans la Region des Grands Lacs (Human Rights League of the Great Lakes Region, or LDGL) works as an umbrella group to maintain the alliance among 27 member organizations in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda — a region rife with conflict. The Great Lakes region has long suffered from violence caused by ideological and ethnic mistrust or hatred. Some organizations in the region, including even some human rights groups, reflect these divisions, taking actions on behalf of narrow, ethnically-based constituencies.
The League’s process of careful and systematic dialogue relies on the principles of ubuntu (humanness) as a basis for approaching its interactions with people from different backgrounds and cultures and for successfully building dialogue and sharing information.
When divisions within the LDGL emerge, leaders of the group try to understand the underlying problems creating the dispute. They then map out potential allies and identify the approach to dialogue that has the most potential for maintaining productive relationships. The LDGL selects individuals to participate in the dialogue based on their ability to build trust and cooperation. In everything it does, the LDGL chooses language and actions that build its credibility, thereby assuring alliance members that they are respected and that their concerns will be addressed.
Before approaching any issue to be addressed by member organizations, especially a contentious one, the League identifies the problem, the possible or real areas of contention, the desired goal and the alliances necessary to reach it. The league also identifies passive, potential and active allies to engage in dialogue.
Friction is natural among members of an alliance, especially one working in an area with a great deal of conflict. Rather than being the fault of “bad people,” this friction signals the need for rigorous, sensitive systems of dialogue. A difficult part of the League’s work is gaining mutual understanding for its actions within the region. If no consensus is reached at a meeting, the League sends reliable and trusted delegates from member organizations to the reluctant members in order to gain better understanding of the perspectives and build support.
Through this ongoing process of building and maintaining relationships, the League has succeeded in creating a strong network of diverse organizations throughout the region and gaining their trust, in order to monitor human rights abuses and quickly disseminate information.
New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.
Sometimes mistrust exists not only between human rights organizations and outside institutions, but among and within the human rights organizations themselves. In the Great Lakes Region of Africa, a group is working across international borders and entrenched lines of suspicion to overcome this problem in order to cooperatively monitor the region’s human rights situation and quickly disseminate information.
Creating mechanisms to carefully map out allies before convening members or groups for dialogues on contentious issues is critical for the successful implementation of tactics. This tactic could be applied in other situations where human rights groups are divided and competing with each other for scarce resources and attention. Coalitions are tenuous and always require constant dialogue and cultivation to continue to work effectively and stay together.