Internationalizing human rights

Ken Roth in Open Democracy:

ScreenHunter_1049 Mar. 04 18.17The partnership between international and national groups has always had its moments of difficulty—misunderstandings born of different perspectives, priorities and resources. But the typical geographic divide between the two types of groups has usually led to a natural and healthy division of labor.

Several factors are now challenging this equilibrium. To begin with, the largest international groups are placing more of their staff outside the West. Human Rights Watch, for example, has long sought to locate researchers in the countries that they address.

Moreover, long gone are the days when international groups are presumptively staffed by Westerners. The people conducting research and advocacy around the world are increasingly likely to be from the country in which they are based—native speakers of the country’s language who are fully immersed in its culture. That staff diversity eases communication between international and national groups and ensures that international groups are informed of national concerns not only through external partnerships but also through internal discussions.

In addition, as certain governments outside the West grow in influence, Human Rights Watch is making a greater effort to influence their human rights policies not only at home but also in their relations with other governments, much as we have traditionally worked to influence the foreign policies of the major Western powers. Meanwhile, human rights groups based outside the West are themselves growing in stature and skill, and like Conectas in Brazil, are increasingly interested in addressing human rights issues beyond their national borders.

More here.