Tactics

Tactic case studies provide first-person, detailed information on the use of a tactic and how it may be adapted to other situations.

The authors -- from diverse walks of life and human rights issue areas -- recount their personal experiences in these detailed tactical notebooks. Although their backgrounds and situations differ, all used innovative tactics to help address an urgent human rights situation. Read these case studies to learn how a tactic was actually implemented, what factors influenced its use, and the challenges that surfaced along the way. We hope these examples of how tactics were used in sometimes dangerous, real-life situations will help you think tactically, to consider adapting these tactics to your own context, and adding these tactics to your own tactical repertoire.


Together We Are Stronger: Peru's National Coordinating Coalition on Human Rights

Protesters holding signsPeru’s Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDDHH) is globally recognized as one of the most successful and effective coalitions in the world. The importance of bringing ourselves together in order to have more strength and greater impact is often discussed, but few have been able to achieve this as well as Peru.  The global experience of the human rights movement, unfortunately, is filled with coalitions that have failed both because of divisions as well as a lack of advocacy.

Taking on Our Own Defense: The Chiapas Network of Community Human Rights Defenders

Human rights practitioners are often located in the Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) of big cities, while most of the crisis situations, the need for monitoring and defense of human rights are located in rural areas.  In Chiapas, Mexico, the rural indigenous communities have been confronting years of repression and harassment.  This tactic case study describes the model of the Network of Human Rights Defenders, organized in Chiapas by Miguel Angel de los Santos.

Public Audiences: Creating Space to Recognize Victims of Internal Conflict in Peru

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Peru is one of the most recent examples of the processes of transitional justice, institutionalized with the aim of exploring the truth hidden behind a past characterized by massive abuse of human rights. One of the central activities in this process is the Public Audiences, created with the aim of legitimizing and dignifying the personal experiences of the victims in order to support the therapeutic and recuperative work on their behalf.

Year of Publication: 2004
Author(s): Sofia Macher

Open Memory: Using inter-institutional cooperation to facilitate access to human rights

Archives of newspaper articlesDocumentary Heritage is a program of Memoria Abierta (Open Memory), whose goal is to improve the use of and access to the documentation stored in the institutional archives of participating human rights organizations.  The Documentary Heritage Program seeks to make all of the documentation related to the period of state terrorism and its present consequences accessible for research and educational purposes, thereby increasing knowledge and contributing to a social conscience about what occurred in Argentina. 

Expanding Access to Justice: The Instituto Pro Bono in São Paulo

Banner held by protesters in BrazilUntil a few years ago, there were no legal firms in Brazil that offered free services to people in need. The Pro-Bono Institute has created a new legal tradition in São Paulo, convincing major law firms to donate their legal services and connecting them with NGOs in need of legal services. The Institute has recruited about 140 lawyers and is offering a variety of free services to all kinds of NGOs, including support for important human rights cases. It has achieved a rapid change in attitude in the legal community and pro bono work has become steadily more popular.

Testing for Discrimination: Identifying and Prosecuting Human Rights Abuses

The Legal Defense Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities (NEKI) in Hungary learned about a testing tactic from a U.S. group that had successfully proved instances of housing discrimination by sending in “testers” of different races to apply for apartments. Similar discrimination was also occurring in Hungary against the Roma population – in housing, employment, access to public spaces and public services and other areas. NEKI adapted the tactic of testing to fit into its strategy of using lawsuits to challenge human rights violations.

Plan B: Using Secondary Protests to Undermine Repression

Activist holding flowers in front of policeThe Otpor! student movement in Serbia built a broad constituency of support by continuously innovating and combining tactics to ensure the safety of their volunteers and break down the fear of its people to speak out against the government. The content of the notebook focuses on “Plan B,” one tactic they used to do this. When Serb authorities began arresting demonstrators, Otpor!’s support base could have disintegrated due to fear.

Making the Global Local: Applying Global Agreements to Local Enforcement of Human Rights Laws

An ID card for a human rights monitorThe League of Human Rights Advocates in Slovakia (LHRA) helps to bridge the gap between the locus of abuse and policies, laws and treaties that have been created to prevent or stop a violation. Often the discussion of these abuses and the laws or policies to prevent them exists only in high-level political and diplomatic forums.

Making Allies: Engaging Government Officials to Advance Human Rights

A panel of professionalsCitizens’ Watch, a Russian nongovernmental organization, uses a collaborative tactic to engage governmental officials, who in many cases are seen as the adversary and not considered as partners. Citizens’ Watch recognized the potential for engaging bureaucrats who illustrated a level of interest in significantly advancing human rights. The author describes the unique uses of this tactic and highlights examples of cross-sectoral cooperation between a nongovernmental organization and the Russian government to advance human rights. 

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