Posts Tagged ‘documentation tools’

Witness’ animated film “We Have Rights” to be used when documenting ICE Arrests

August 27, 2020

It wil take only 3 minutes to watch this well-done animated film “We Have Rights When Documenting ICE Arrests” which Witness co-created for the We Have Rights Campaign.   

 

Witness reminds us of the power of images through the Floyd Case

June 13, 2020

The video of the gruesome murder of George Floyd ignited protests around the world in solidarity against racism and white supremacy supported by the government and enforced by police. But we know for every video of police violence, there are many deaths that were not recorded that still deserve our attention and support.

Founded on the power of video to bring attention to the breach of human rights during the Rodney King arrest, beating, filming, and subsequent uprising 28 years ago, WITNESS continues to train and guide people to use their cell phone video camera to record incidents of human rights abuse, then share it with the media and justice system to prosecute wrongdoers. 

Today, the systems and patterns of police abuse are as rampant as ever. What has changed is our collective ability to document these moments. 

We help people document state violence, push for accountability, and implement structural change. In the past few weeks, we’ve seen a spike in demand for our guidance on how to shoot and share footage of police violence safely, ethically, and effectively. Our tips continue to inform ethical and strategic filming of police misconduct and protests.  Video is a tool to show violence. But more importantly, it’s a tool to show patterns. It forces the broader public to pay attention, and authority to change. We have seen commitments from local and state leaders and we encourage more people around the world to break down military and police power.  And to film it.  Ambika Samarthya-Howard Head of Communications WITNESS

https://mailchi.mp/witness.org/the-power-of-video-to-film-injustice?e=e2d40a1193

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/05/policy-response-from-human-rights-ngos-to-covid-19-witness/

New tool in higher education: worldwide Academic Freedom Index (AFi)

April 17, 2020

On 26 March 2010 the Global Public Policy Institute and Scholars at Risk introduced the Academic Freedom Index (AFi), a new time series and near-global dataset on several dimensions of academic freedom. It calls on decision-makers in higher education and foreign policy, university administrations, research funding organizations, advocacy groups, and parliaments to use AFi data to better protect and promote academic freedom. It also includes recommendations for scholars and students.

The AFi aims to inform stakeholders, provide monitoring yardsticks, alter incentive structures, challenge university rankings, facilitate research, and ultimately promote academic freedom. It is the result of a collaborative effort between researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) and the V-Dem Institute, the Scholars at Risk Network, and the Global Public Policy Institute. AFi scores are based on expert assessments by 1,810 scholars around the world which are integrated in a Bayesian measurement model.

The data is publicly available on V‑Dem’s website. V-Dem also provides an online tool that can be used to analyze any of the indicators.

The full report as well as a working paper are available for download.

See also, from 2015: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/06/23/scholars-at-risk-publishes-first-academic-freedom-monitoring-report-free2think/

Free Universities: Putting the Academic Freedom Index Into Action

New academic study of UN human rights treaty system calls for online databases on impact

February 16, 2020

Christof Heyns (University of Pretoria; Member of the UN Human Rights Committee.) and Frans Viljoen (Director, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria) reported on 11 February 2020 in Global Rights on the progress being made in a new, global academic study to answer the question “What difference does the UN human rights treaty system make, and why?”.

An comprehensive research project on the impact of the treaty system, which started some years ago, is now being expanded into a global study….The first steps of the study were taken two decades ago by a team of researchers coordinated from the University of Pretoria, in collaboration with the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR). …..The researchers documented numerous instances of impact, and we were in a position to draw general conclusions, published as a book and an article. This included that the evidence showed that the treaty system has had an enormous impact on the protection of human rights on the ground, in particular through the—recognized or unrecognized—incorporation of treaty norms into domestic law.

The following factors were found to be among those that have enhanced its impact: a strong domestic constituency for specific treaties; national action plans; and the windows of opportunity that comes with a change to democracy. We also laid strong emphasis on a greater emphasis on the role of national human rights institutions in mediating impact, and for them to do follow-up.

Factors found to have limited the impact of the system included the following: concerns for State sovereignty; a lack of knowledge of the system; the absence of a robust domestic human right culture; ineffective coordination between governmental departments; an ad-hoc approach to reporting; federalism; reprisals against human rights defenders; a preference for regional systems; and weak follow-up by treaty bodies.

We reported a rallying cry from many far-flung countries that ‘Geneva is very far’—not only in terms of geography but also in terms of accessibility and psychological ownership. And we proposed that the treaty bodies should consider holding some of their meetings away from  UN headquarters in Geneva.

Now, twenty years later, we are reviewing the same 20 countries, again with the help of researchers based in the respective countries, and again in collaboration with the OHCHR. We are asking the same questions. This study is now nearing completion, and we plan to publish it in the middle of next year, this time, with Professor Rachel Murray from Bristol University as co-editor. The data from the more recent study is still coming in. So far, the results provide further evidence of the strong impact of the system in most countries. However, a systematic analysis will only be possible once all the data has been gathered.

In the meantime, some of the issues identified up in the earlier study have been taken up within the system. There is for example a much stronger recognition of the role of national implementation and monitoring mechanisms. The Disability Rights Convention adopted in 2007, explicitly calls for creation of national ‘focal points’ and the designation of national human rights institutions to promote, protect and monitor implementation of the Convention….

The need to ‘bring the system closer to the ground’  is now recognized by a range of NGOs in preparation for the 2020 review of treaty bodies. The idea of treaty body meetings outside Geneva was advanced again by Heyns and Gravett in a blog two years ago, also on the basis of the regional experience, and the first such meeting for a UN treaty body is now being planned for 2020.

During the course of these two studies, we became very aware of the importance of getting a clear picture of the impact of the system, but also of the limitations of what we were doing. With only 20 countries covered, the sample size is quite limited; and, providing a snapshot at a particular moment in those countries means they are quickly overtaken by events. Following wide consultation, we are currently in the process of setting up an online database, where information on the impact of the system in all UN member states will be posted. The 20 country studies mentioned above, as well as the supporting documentation, will for a start be posted on a website. In the meantime, clinical groups are being formed at universities around the world, where international students are gathering the relevant information on their home countries, to be posted on the website. We anticipate that up to 50 new countries will be covered per year and ones covered earlier will be updated. In an era of crowd-sourcing, contributions from all interested parties—NGOs, individual researchers etc.—will be solicited.

This will be a large-scale and long-term research project, but hopefully it will help to allow the collective wisdom of people anywhere in the world to ensure that the treaty system remains as effective and as responsive to the needs of our time as is possible. It is also intended, in some way, to be a response to the lament that ‘Geneva is very far’ and to ensure that the treaty system is brought closer to the actual rights-holders, even if only virtually.

The treaty system has played a pivotal role in developing the substantive norms of the global human rights project over the last six decades. The future of the treaty system depends on whether it will continue to lead the way on substance, but more is required: it will have to enhance its visibility and broaden its ownership to a global audience, and treaty norms will have to find their way into domestic law and practices. This is the gap that the new study aims to help fill.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/02/17/treaty-bodies-case-law-database-saved-and-resurrected-by-un/

https://www.openglobalrights.org/what-difference-does-un-human-rights-treaty-system-make/

EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency has new website to serve mobile users better

February 5, 2020

It prominently highlights useful tools like FRA’s EU Fundamental Rights Information System (EFRIS). This section steers users to key resources, such as promising practices from across the EU on how to combat hate crime or collect equality data, which they could use in their own work. In addition, country-specific information is more prominent so users can find local information from their country. It also flags which information is available in other EU languages. Users can also sign up for project updates via email so they can keep abreast of the latest agency developments. The site reflects FRA’s convening power as a hub for all human rights defenders which they can draw on for their work. It also aims to mirror FRA’s communicating rights mantra to maximise impact and outreach, helping to make a difference for people across the EU.

Accessibility remains a key consideration in the new design of the site.

https://fra.europa.eu/en/news/2020/new-modern-fra-website-promises-better-user-experience

Compilation of recommendations to companies and investors on HRDs and civic freedoms

February 1, 2020

Several national and international non-governmental organizations, think-tanks, coalitions and UN bodies and experts have made recommendations to businesses and investors about how to ensure respect for human rights defenders and civic freedoms. This non-exhaustive list brings together these recommendations.

Recommendations for companies and investors:

Name / Title:

Description:

Business sector:

Authors – type of organization(s): 

Date and Year:

Zero Tolerance InitiativeThe Geneva Declaration Declaration made by defenders of human rights and environment and supporting NGOs, with recommendations for states, companies and investors  All sectors Affected communities’ representatives, national and international NGOs November 2019
Action plan from the World HRDs Summit  Action plan made by defenders of human rights and environment and supporting NGOs, with recommendations for states, companies and investors  All sectors Affected communities’ representatives, national and international NGOs December 2018
Situation of human rights defenders – A/72/170 UN Special Rapporteur on HRDs’ report on HRDs working on business and human rights, with recommendations to states, companies and investors All sectors UN Expert July 2017

Recommendations for companies:

Human rights defenders and civic space – the business and human rights dimension Working Group on Business and Human Rights, as part of its mandate to promote the UN Guiding Principles, decided to give focused attention to the issue of HRDs and civic space – this is the summary of UNWG’s efforts on this issue to date and includes draft guidance for companies  All sectors  UN Working Group Ongoing
Shared Space under pressure: Business Support for Civic freedoms and HRDs Guidance document on business support for civic freedoms and HRDs All sectors International NGOs (informed by interviews with business representatives, HRDs, national and international NGOs) August 2018
Thematic overview: Civil society and the private sector CIVICUS’ 2017 State of Civil Society Report addressed the theme of civil society and the private sector, gathering a range of informed views from 27 different stakeholders that wrote about different aspects and produced a set of recommendations for the private sector  All sectors  National and international NGOs January 2017
Cross-regional group of human rights defenders called on business to take action for their engagement and protection Joint statement from 40+ civil society organizations, with guidance for businesses All sectors National and international NGOs 2016
Human Rights Defenders and Business: Searching for Common Ground Report with case studies, analysis and recommendations for businesses  All sectors International NGOs (informed by HRDs and national NGOs) December 2015

Recommendations for investors and financial institutions:

 Uncalculated Risks: Threats and attacks against human rights defenders and the role of development finance Report with 25 case studies and recommendations for international financial institutions  Finance & banking International and national NGOs June 2019
Guide for independent accountability mechanisms on measures to address the risk of reprisals in complaint management Toolkit that aims to assist independent accountability mechanisms (IAMs) to address the risk of reprisals within the context of their complaint management process  Finance & banking Independent Consultation and Investigation Mechanism (IDBG) January 2019

This list will continue to be updated – please notify the NGO at zbona(at)business-humanrights.org, if there is a set of recommendations missing from it.

https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/compilation-of-recommendations-to-companies-and-investors-on-hrds-civic-freedoms

How can the human rights defenders use new information technologies better?

November 28, 2019

(twitter: @mads_gottlieb) wrote in Impakter about Human Rights, Technology and Partnerships and stated that these technologies have the potential to tremendously facilitate human rights defenders in their work, whether they are used to document facts about investigations, or as preventive measures to avoid violations. His main message in this short article is an appeal to the human rights sector at large, to use technology more creatively, to make technology upgrades a top priority, and to engage with the technology sector in this difficult endeavor. The human rights sector will never be able to develop the newest technologies, but the opportunities that technology provides is something they need to make use of now and in collaboration with the technology sector

…Several cases show that human rights are under threat, and that it is difficult to investigate and gather the necessary facts in time to protect them. Duterte in the Philippines, ordered the police to shoot activists who demonstrated against extra-judicial killings. He later tried to reduce the funding of the Philippines National Human Rights Commission to 1 USD a year. This threat followed a period of 15 months of investigating the killings, and Duterte responded with the claim that they were “useless and defended criminal’s rights.” 

Zimbabwe is another country with a difficult environment for human rights defenders. It is not surprising that few people speak out, since the few that dare to demonstrate or voice opposing political views disappear. A famous example is the activist and journalist,  from Occupy Africa Unity Square. He was allegedly beaten in 2014, and in 2015 he went missing and was never found. His disappearance occurred after a period of public demonstrations against Mugabe’s regime. To add to the challenging conditions that call for better tools to defend human rights, is the fact that many European countries digitalise their public services. The newly introduced data platforms store and process sensitive information about the population, such as gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, past health records, etc. Information that can easily be used for discriminative purposes, whether intentionally or not.

Human rights defenders typically struggle to find adequate resources for their daily operations and as a result, investments in technology often come second. It is rare for human rights defenders to have anything beyond the minimum requirements, such as the internally-facing maintenance of an operational and secure internet connection, a case system, or a website. At the same time, global technology companies develop new technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, and advanced data and surveillance techniques. These technologies have the potential to tremendously facilitate human rights defenders in their work, whether they are used to document facts about investigations, or as preventive measures to avoid violations. It is also important to facilitate and empower rights-holders in setting up and using networks and platforms that can help notify and verify violations quickly. 

Collaboration is an excellent problem-solving approach and human rights organizations are well aware of it. They engage in multiple partnerships with important actors. The concern is therefore not the lack of collaboration, but whether they adequately prioritize what is now the world’s leading sector — technology (the top 5 on Forbes list of most valuable brands are all technology companies; Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook). It is not up to the technology sector to engage with the human rights sector (whether they want to or not), but it should be a top priority for the human rights sector to try to reduce their technology gap, in the interest of human rights.

There are several partnership opportunities, and many are easy to get started with and do not require monetary investments. One opportunity is to partner up with tech universities, that have the expertise to develop new types of secure, rapid monitoring systems. Blockchain embraces most of the principles that human rights embraces, such as transparency, equality and accountability, and rapid response times are possible. So why not collaborate with universities? Another opportunity is collaborating with institutions that manage satellite images. Images provide very solid proof regarding changes in landscape, examples include deforestation that threatens indigenous people, and the removal or burning of villages over a short period of time. A third opportunity is to get in dialogue with the technology giants that develop these new technologies, and, rather than asking for monetary donations, ask for input regarding how the human rights sector can effectively leverage technology. 

 

Progress with the TrialWatch app of the Clooney Foundation

September 10, 2019

Illegitimate judicial proceedings are increasingly being used as a ‘rule-of-law-shield’ to fend off legitimate criticism,” says David Pressman, the Executive Director of the Clooney Foundation for Justice (CFJ). No overall system exists to monitor the fairness of trials around the world: some cases receive media attention and are well documented, whereas others are only followed by local activists. To bridge this gap, the CFJ, founded in June 2016, set up TrialWatch, an international monitoring program. Launched in April 2019, TrialWatch trains individuals in the basics of trial-monitoring, and equips them with the TrialWatch app, developed with Microsoft, to help them collect information about trials of interest in their areas. That information is then passed on to legal experts, such as international human rights lawyers, who assess it and write fairness reports. In time, this will contribute to a global justice index, ranking countries by the fairness of their legal system.

By early May 2019, TrialWatch was already monitoring 18 trials around the world, from Nigeria to Belarus, a number which the organisation wants to increase. “TrialWatch aims to solve the challenge of scaling trial-monitoring,” says Pressman. Trial-monitoring has been used by legal experts and lawyers for many years, because it increases transparency, creates a simplified record of the trial, and can facilitate reform. To make it easier to become a monitor, the CFJ developed a new set of guidelines accessible to non-experts, which were approved by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the American Bar Association and Columbia Law School.

The TrialWatch smartphone app gives trial-monitors the tools to collect essential information, and store it securely in one place. The training that trial-monitors receive helps ensure that they record the right information, and straightforward yes/no questionnaires help them speed up collection. Within the app, trial-monitors can also take photos, shoot videos, and record audio – which is useful, given that many of the monitored trials happen in languages which aren’t widely spoken. Audio files are transcribed in the original language and then translated into English by Microsoft’s Azure Cognitive Services. All that is securely uploaded to the cloud, to be pored over by the CFJ’s legal experts.

Our hope is that TrialWatch can help expose states when they fall short,” Pressman says . “It can demonstrate the ways that states are instrumentalising the courts in an effort to legitimise human rights abuses.

https://www.wired.co.uk/article/amal-clooney-trialwatch-app

WEBINAR: the “events” method for documenting human rights violations on 7 March

February 26, 2019

Are you an organisation, human rights group, or activist registering, documenting, analysing human rights cases? HURIDOCS invites you to join this webinar and discussion of the events method for documenting human rights violations!

  • What: Presentation and discussion on the events method for documenting human rights violations
  • Who: Bert Verstappen, Senior Documentalist at HURIDOCS
  • When: Thursday, 7 March 2019 from 14:00 to 15:30 UTC/GMT
  • Where: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFzIp9u-nsg

Data is like water – it needs a container to make it useful. The beginning of a human rights documentation projects often starts with containers like lists and spreadsheets. But at some point, the information will outgrow these containers – both in terms of quantity and complexity.

The way you design these containers will have an impact on what information you will gather, how you organise the information, and the kind of analysis you can carry out. HURIDOCS and its network developed the Events Standard Formats methodology (we now call the events method) – to provide a container specifically for organisations documenting human rights violations.

The purpose of the events method is to capture essential information with regard to individual cases of human rights violations in order to better understand patterns of violence, including “who did what to whom”. It involves gathering information about:

  • facts: what happened, where, and when
  • the possible human rights violations that were committed
  • the persons involved: which alleged perpetrator did what to which victim, what are the sources of information and which interventions were made.

For some of my earlier posts on HURIDOCS, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/category/organisations/huridocs/

https://www.huridocs.org/2019/02/community-discussion-the-events-method-for-documenting-human-rights-violations/

Progress report on “I Defend Rights” project in 2018

January 4, 2019

In 2018 the Norwegian Human Rights Fund and Memria continued their partnership on the unique I Defend Rights initiative, an audio archive of hundreds of stories told by human rights defenders. The purpose of this listening project is to commemorate and celebrate the important roles that human rights defenders have by recording, archiving and sharing their experiences and contributions. The platform includes personal accounts of 188 human rights defenders. This are some of the highlights in 2018:

March
We had the first open call for stories on our site (English version).  Within the first three months, over 50 human rights defenders spoke about why they defend rights. These stories were published on the platform and shared on social media. 

May
Official launching of Yo Defiendo Derechos and Je Defénds le Droits, the archives for Spanish and French-speaking communities.

August
We held a sensemaking workshop in New York with key stakeholders and partners including communication experts to analyze a sample of the archive and think about next steps for the project.

September
Our team participated in a community fair at Forum Asia’s 8th Asian Regional Human Rights Defenders Forum in Bali and engaged with human rights defenders from the region

October
We attended the Human Rights Defenders World Summit in Paris and installed our first storytelling booth. With the help of volunteers, we collected 65 stories in three days. 

A HRD recording his message at the HRD World Summit in Paris, October 2018

November 
We collected more stories and created an exhibition at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo during the Norwegian Human Rights Fund 30th Anniversary Conference. (Listen to the NHRF Conference and the panel on new tools with the participation of I Defend Rights).

LOOKING FORWARD TO 2019

The gathering will continue during 2019 with an emphasis on dissemination. Our main channels will be social media, a new website, and an exhibition. We want to do this in collaboration with our partners. We hope to have our new website by February, one that reflects our new image and lets us showcase the amazing stories from so many wonderful human rights defenders on our platform.
We are also joining forces with designers to create an exhibition with the voices of the rights defenders. We will be working with libraries, universities, museums and unexpected venues to reach a diverse audience.

Follow them on twitter and facebook.

https://mailchi.mp/9649638e13d0/happy-new-year-from-the-i-defend-rights-team?e=0c88049d46