Building Capacity

Tracking the work of government officials online to fight corruption

The city government in Seoul, South Korea, has created an online database to increase government transparency. Online Procedures Enhancement for Civil Applications (OPEN) allows city residents to monitor details of civil applications related to 70 municipal government tasks that have been identified as the most prone to corruption, including housing and construction projects, environmental regulation and urban planning.

Teaching police officers about their role in defending human rights

The Centro de Assessoramento a Programas de Educação para a Cidadania (CAPEC, or the Center for Advising Citizenship Education Programs) provides training to police officers in Brazil to help them understand the vital role they can play as defenders of human rights. The training, which includes a wide variety of courses, empha­sizes the human rights of all citizens, including the police officers themselves. The role of police is transformed through this process, leading to improved relationships with the community and greater civic engagement.

Settling landless people on unfarmed land to pressure the government to carry out land reforms

Since its creation in 1984, the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement (Movimento Dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, or MST) has addressed the issue of land reform by organizing large groups of landless farmers to settle and farm unused land belonging to wealthy landowners. After occupying an area MST attempts to gain the land legally through petitioning and legislation, using an article in the Brazilian constitution stating that unproductive land is available for agrarian reform.

Informing potential victims of their rights when there is a time limit on protecting their rights

The Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA) in Ontario, Canada, contacts tenants at risk of eviction and gives them the information they need to avoid eviction. Canadian law limits to five days the time tenants have to dispute evictions, and many people do not have the information or resources to react quickly enough to prevent eviction.

Independently collecting air-quality data on the community level in order to pressure for change

Many communities across the United States have begun or joined “bucket brigades” programs that teach people living near industrial polluters to build and use simple air monitoring devices, or “buckets,” which have been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In the absence of strong environmental laws, standards or enforcement bodies, buckets give communities the means to independently monitor the air quality of their neighborhoods and provide them with evidence to pressure for change.

Identifying allies to hold constructive dialogue and main­tain cooperative relationships

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.

Establishing a formal truth commission to investigate and acknowledge gross human rights violations

The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was initiated by national legislation in 1995, after a period of public debate. Its mandate was to collect information about gross human rights violations committed by state bodies or the armed opposition during apartheid and its goal was to promote national unity and reconcili­ation. The Commission was expected to offer suggestions for policy reforms to prevent future abuses. In addition to amnesty and human rights hearings, special hearings focused on abuses suffered by women and children and others were held on the role of faith communities, the medical establishment, the legal sector, the business com­munity and other institutions that had passively or actively contributed to rights violations.

For more information on the "victim accompaniment" tactic within the context of the South African TRC, read our in-depth case study.

Encouraging local governments, organizations and individuals to oppose, through the use of education and resources, federal legislation that endangers human rights

In the United States, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) creates tools and resources to help local advocates of the Bill of Rights educate members of local governments and communities about how federal anti­terrorism legislation and policies violate their rights. Many of the local groups work with their city, town or county governments to formally register opposition to violations of civil liberties, passing resolutions or ordinances up­holding the Bill of Rights.

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