Building Capacity

Empowering NGOs to use video in human rights advocacy

WITNESS empowers human rights organizations around the world to incorporate video as an advocacy tool in their work. Rooted in the power of personal testimonies and in the principle that a picture is worth a thousand words, the videos of WITNESS and its partners have been used as evidence in legal proceedings; to corroborate allegations of human rights violations; to complement written reports to international and regional organizations that provide a counterweight to official versions of a country’s human rights performance; to stimulate grassroots education and mobilization; to provide information for news broadcasts; to promote human rights via the internet; and to produce documentaries for broadcast on television worldwide.

Creating a venue on the Internet for former child soldiers to share their stories and develop new skills

Launched in 2000, the Child Soldier Project of the International Education and Resource Network in Sierra Leone (iEarn Sierra Leone) has created a web site on which former child soldiers can share their stories. The web site, www.childsoldiers.org, features the essays, poems, artwork and voices of former child soldiers and offers an on­line forum for discussion.

Creating a transnational body to advocate for and promote the rights of indigenous people

The Saami Council, established in 1956, emerged from the need to maintain strong connections across the politi­cal borders that divide the Saami people of northern Scandinavia, to promote cooperation and to preserve their rights as indigenous people. The Council advocates for rights in the area where the Saami have lived for more than 10,000 years, an area that currently spans four countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia’s Kola Peninsula.

Creating a long-term public forum where the police and ordinary citizens can work together to resolve human rights grievances and other issues affecting police/community relations

The CLEEN Foundation, formally the Centre for Law Enforcement Education in Nigeria, hosts public forums where citizens and police can discuss concerns and grievances regarding crime and police conduct.

Communities and police forces can find themselves in an unproductive cycle of distrust. Community members are concerned about police misconduct, brutality, and corruption. The police, in turn, can see the community as hostile and uncooperative in their investigations.

Using street conferences to raise awareness around civilians being sent to military trials

No To Military Trials uses “street conferences” to raise awareness around the issue of using military trials against civilian populations in Egypt. A street conference is a public gathering in a public space to raise awareness about a specific issue by providing testimony from victims affected by the issue. The goal of this tactic is to bring the issue to the public in a new way, beyond what is discussed in traditional avenues like the mainstream media.

Contracting with multinational corporations to monitor labor conditions in their supplier factories

The Commission for the Verification of Corporate Codes of Conduct (Coverco) conducts long-term, intensive, independent monitoring of labor conditions in Guatemalan apparel factories and agricultural export industries, verifying compliance with internationally accepted labor standards. Based in Guatemala City, Coverco is an inde­pendent monitoring organization formed in 1997 by members of civil society groups; it does not work as a consul­tant to management nor as a worker advocate.

Concentrating all steps in the production process in facilities to make it easier to monitor and eliminate the use of child labor

In 1996 Reebok International initiated factory monitoring, product labeling and education programs to prevent the use of child labor in the manufacture of their Pakistani-made soccer balls.

An estimated twenty percent of laborers in soccer ball production facilities in Sialkot, Pakistan were children. Reebok human rights standards require that workers in its factories be at least 15 years old de­pending on applicable local laws.

Citizen monitoring of courts as a means of creating system change

WATCH has developed a highly effective court monitoring method involving citizen volunteers as a means of creating legal and policy system change and improving the administration of justice for victims of abuse. WATCH volunteers first entered a courtroom in Hennepin County, Minnesota (USA) in March 1993. Since that time WATCH trains 50 volunteers each year who, along with staff, monitor more than 4,500 court hearings regarding sexual assault, child abuse, and domestic violence cases. They are immediately recognized by the red clipboards they carry.

Certifying companies based on an internationally recognizable standard to improve labor conditions

Social Accountability International (SAI) has developed a set of voluntary corporate social responsibility standards called SA 8000. SA 8000 includes a code of conduct for labor conditions, based on established international standards, and a verification system to ensure compliance. In order for a company to receive SA 8000 certification, it must pass monitoring inspections by SAI-certified auditors. The auditors closely monitor the companies before and after certification to ensure their capability to comply with the standards and to require their collaboration with local experts.

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