101 for Campaigning for Human Rights in Africa

WHAT does it mean to campaign for internationally recognized human rights in sub Saharan which is chock-filled with rampant human violations? Does it mean that because governments in the region violate human rights willy-nilly, there should be no concerted effort to engage in a campaign for their recognition.

It is not enough to feel outrage when we learn of the number of children exploited sexually or at work, of refugees or of those suffering from hunger. We must react, each one of us to the best of our abilities. It is not just a matter of looking at what government is doing – Federico Mayor, former UNESCO Director-General

Human rights are often misunderstood and can sometimes be seen as abstract ideals with not much practical relevance for real people. And there is no doubt that the rampant abuse of human rights in Africa only serves to worsen the inequalities and vulnerabilities of individuals and communities.

The promotion of social justice and the culture of peace in Africa is of paramount importance but doing the job can be quite a risky business. And, of course, not so many people are willing to put their lives on the line. It’s understandable.

There are many stories of people who have disappeared in the night never to be seen again, of daylight murders, of state impunity that fill the majority of the citizens of the continent with terror.If anything, the reign of terror exhibited by many African governments must in itself be a motivating factor to engage in a campaign for human rights.

Highlighting human rights abuses can go a long way in forcing States to take remedial action and/or to stop a certain course of action. Information is indeed a tool that can be harnessed to push ahead the human rights agenda, particularly in our hyper-connected age. In the arena of human rights, nothing can play so important an role in instituting change as much as information. Thus, as soon a human rights abuse is committed it is critical that the information be circulated as widely as possible. In the campaign for human, truth is of high importance hence the need to always verify the source of information.

Because many governments hide behind the pretext that human right a an imported, Western concept, it is critical to ensure that moral voices that take the lead in speaking out against abuses be African. This is not to say condemnation of abuses cannot come from anywhere in the world. As Martin Luther King Jnr put it, a human right abuse in one part of the world constitutes human rights abuse everywhere.

Campaigning for human rights in Africa needs short & long term campaign objectives & strategies. The objectives and strategies will obviously be informed by a mapping process that is aimed at identifying the human rights challenges in the region. Human rights as we know encompass a wide gamut of issues – political, economic, cultural, psychological – and as we go into the future the concept of human rights is most likely to expand.

Therefore, when framing a strategy its essential to be clear about what is to be achieved. A country mapping process is therefore critical in determining priorities. Unless there are effective country-based information, dialogue and advocacy networks for human rights, the overall vision for the recognition of human rights will not be achieved. The purpose of the networks will be to collect, analyze, synthesize and share information on a timely basis. It important for the networks to engage in partnerships. Campaigns, after all, involve decision makers, opponents and allies.

In the campaign process, there will be urgent issues that come up, and need to be addressed in very little time. Training of networks is critical to ensure that the information that they purvey to the outer world is credible.

Campaigning at regional and country level can also utilize different levels of tactics: a. highly visible public pushes, b. direct lobbying and c. media work.

Developing campaign manuals and an implementation framework can help to align the process in different countries of the region, as well as provide a basis for monitoring and evaluating activities. Planning human rights campaigning in Africa can help to identify areas of focus, quantify costs of attaining and create a concrete series of steps of actions that need to be takento achieve the ultimate vision.

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