Types of Tactical Aims and Actions

New Tactics provides four categories of human rights-based tactical aims that provide strategic direction for advocacy efforts. For resources to engage your group in exploring and adapting tactics, see our Strategy Toolkit, Step 4 – Explore Tactics.
Tactics aimed to prevent imminent violations from happening, put obstacles to deter abuse or remove opportunities for abuse.
Tactics aimed to intervene in long-standing, continued abuse and denial of human rights (e.g., discrimination and marginalization).
Tactics aimed to restore and rebuild the lives of victims and communities after abuses – to heal, pursue justice, reconciliation and reparations for victims and communities.
Tactics that aim to promote human rights by building communities, cultures and institutions where rights are understood, strengthened, respected, protected and to advance a vision for a free and fair society. 

Tactical Actions - 10 broad categories

Our publications and learning materials also provide the following ten broad tactical action categories to help you refine your search and expand your imagination for what is possible.

Healing from Abuse

Human rights abuses have wide-ranging impacts on victims, their families, and communities. Efforts to address the physical, emotional and social traumas can restore peoples’ abilities to contribute to human rights in their societies. Tactics like torture rehabilitation, peer counseling and support, and the use of traditional healing approaches can bring communities together, restore trust, and help individuals and families cope with the trauma of conflict and human rights atrocities.

Modeling Systems and Structures

Modeling the government or society we want can be a powerful way to demonstrate that there are realistic alternatives. Tactics to create innovative new forms of economic exchange and alternative governance and social structures offer a different vision for the future.  They also offer individuals new ways to participate in a positive way in the creation of the society they hope to live in one day.

Resisting and Disrupting Abuses

Tactics of resistance and disruption make public opposition to human rights violations visible. Civil resistance, boycotts, protests, peaceful occupations, and other approaches disrupt the flow of commerce and governance, and draw attention to ongoing abuses in society. Due to their highly-visible nature, they increase pressure on those targeted to publicly respond in some way, which may create added risks in some contexts.  

Remembering Victims and Abuses

Tactics to honor and remember those who have been victims of human rights violations can provide support to affected families and communities, and prevent a repeat of past abuses. The development of sites of conscience, public archives of human rights atrocities, and other tactics, creates a historical record and sustain a conversation about human rights in society.

Seeking Justice

After human rights violations have taken place, there is often a strong motivation to seek justice for victims. Many groups around the world have been working at the local, national and international levels to bring perpetrators to justice, demand acknowledgement of crimes, and secure compensation for victims. Through tactics of redress, societies can begin to come to terms with past human rights abuses and send a message to future perpetrators that they will be brought to justice.

Building Awareness

Educating individuals and communities about human rights issues is critical to generate interest and involvement in human rights movements. Tactics to build awareness range from street theater and public art to media engagement and video activism. While helping to develop new allies for your cause, these tactics provide an essential starting point for public dialogue about human rights, and focus attention on those responsible for human rights crimes.

Reducing Fear

In many places where there might be broad public support for certain human rights goals, people are afraid to be involved for fear of arrest, repudiation, or other consequences. Tactics that reduce the risk of participation in human rights causes, provide anonymity or protection, or overcome the sense that change is impossible, can help to build a stronger, more active movement against human rights abuses.

Mobilizing Allies

Among the most critical work of human rights practitioners is the effort to mobilize your allies by building strategic alliances and coalitions. Building alliances – especially with unexpected partners – can strengthen the efforts of human rights advocates in unexpected ways. Building relationships with groups outside the usual sectors lends credibility to your cause and attracts new audiences. Reaching across international borders builds alliances that are stronger, more flexible, and have additional political clout. Strategic collaboration and coalition-building can make advocates more prepared, more powerful and more representative of the communities they serve. When groups are no longer working in isolation, they can enhance their legitimacy with media, the public, and government.

Protecting Those at Risk

We can show no greater solidarity than physically to stand up for – or next to – fellow human beings who are putting their lives or freedom at risk. This is a relatively simple and powerful idea: safety in numbers.  People or groups who are willing to inflict harm on someone may be unwilling to do so in front of others, fearing witnesses, negative media coverage, or the watchful eye of the international community.

Changing Minds

Tactics to influence the opinions and actions of decision-makers in society and institutions can offer a powerful avenue for social and cultural change. Many of those involved in carrying out or supporting human rights abuses can be motivated to change course voluntarily. Consumers or shareholders can provide incentives to businesses to correct unfair labor practices; community leaders can transform and replace discriminatory cultural traditions with new, inclusive ones; public officials can be introduced to models of governance that strengthen human rights protections and broaden participation. These tactics may take time, and often involve working behind the scenes to negotiate and promote ongoing dialogue with those who sustain or are responsible for human rights abuses.