“We will not enjoy security without development, we will not enjoy development without security, and we will not enjoy either without respect for human rights.”
- Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
Protection of human rights and promotion of good governance structures are critical issues within the field of international development. Although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948, many people around the world are still denied their rights on a daily basis and become victims because of their age, gender, ethnicity or beliefs. Indeed, the United Nations estimates that up to four billion people globally do not have proper access to the rule of law. There is now increasing recognition within academia, policy-making and donor organisations that the poorest members of society are often the ones with the least power, and that human rights, justice and accountability are vital elements in the fight against poverty.
Human Rights Organisations
Many organisations work solely in this field, protecting victims or campaigning for justice, while others incorporate human rights work into their existing specialism. Some organisations, for example, work directly with victims of human rights abuses to protect them and help to rebuild their lives, while others focus on advocacy and raising public awareness. In all cases, the beneficiaries will be amongst the most disadvantaged people in society.
The organisations involved in direct service delivery will often cater to the needs of a specific group of people, such as abused women and children, refugees or victims of human trafficking. Theirs is a personal approach, working directly with people to help them change their lives, with the emphasis on the individual victim. Work such as this produces a very tangible result – victims may be given shelter, protection, legal support, or the opportunity to gain new skills and find work.
In many countries women, ethnic minorities and people such as HIV/AIDS victims find themselves marginalised from society. Organisations set-up to help these groups concentrate on promoting their rights by improving access to education, training and work. By supporting income generating activities and education programmes, they help to give previously marginalised communities the independence and confidence to make their voice heard.
Other organisations in the human rights field concentrate more on campaigning, advocacy and raising awareness of rights and public interest issues. While these groups do not have the same personal contact with victims, their work is nevertheless highly important for the promotion of human rights and good governance in countries which often fail to provide these for their citizens. Working on all levels, from the grass-roots community to political leaders, they might shape national policy by advocating the passing of human rights legislation, help to hold governments to account, or educate the public about their rights. Organisations like this are often asked to comment on current events in the media, and they may employ radio or nation-wide campaigns to give their message a broad, wide-ranging effect.
What our volunteers do
Our volunteers help build the capacity of organisations working in the human rights field. They don’t often get involved in delivering the services themselves – that’s best left to the local professionals - they work to help our partners improve their services. Whether it’s in communication, report-writing, organisational development or advocacy, our volunteers contribute their time and skills in return for the experience of working with organisations at the cutting edge of human rights protection.