Human Rights Fieldwork: partnership, participation and accountability

Since 1995 IHRN has advocated a vision of international human rights fieldwork which reinforces, rather than replaces, host society efforts; and which demonstrates the importance of participation by the way it acts - the way it chooses priorities, designs its work and is accountable for its impact. Two key concepts are explored in the field research below: partnership and participation.

Partnership

Towards Partnership for Effective Human Rights Fieldwork questions the fieldwork paradigm which effectively excludes the host society from decision-making and marginalises economic, social and cultural rights - whose violation are often root causes of conflict. In that paradigm, there continues to be a lack of accountability for actual human rights impacts.

Towards Partnership formed the basis for discussions in five sample countries by the International Human Rights Trust over two years. The aim was to stimulate and support discussion regarding the effectiveness of the human rights fieldwork the countries’ had hosted: Colombia, Burundi, El Salvador, Guatemala and Rwanda. Several common themes emerged which question the relevance and sustainability of the current model of international human rights intervention as well as the continuing lack of accountability for human rights impacts (see results in publication which follows below).

Towards Partnership for Effective Human Rights Fieldwork, by Karen Kenny.
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The Right to Participate in International Human Rights Fieldwork

In this field research, for what may have been the first time, voices of the host societies (in whose name major international human rights interventions were conducted) have been brought directly to international decision-makers. After discussions in five countries, the common themes which emerged were directly presented by host society actors to an international forum in Geneva convened specifically for this purpose by the International Human Rights Trust (see previous publication, Towards Partnership).

The Right to Participate in International Human Rights Fieldwork, contains the questions raised by voices in Colombia, Burundi, El Salvador, Guatemala and Rwanda. “Why are concepts basic to sustainable development (such as participation) not systematically applied in human rights fieldwork?” The host society voices question the impact and sustainability of the current model of human rights fieldwork which they see as failing to address impunity, as excluding economic, social and cultural rights and gender analysis - as well as marginalising the very society in whose name it purports to act.

In 2002, donors funding the OHCHR Office in Colombia sought to evaluate the human rights impact of its work in light of questions such as these. This is apparently the first time an independent, participatory evaluation of human rights fieldwork has been commissioned. Canada was focal point for the evaluation and other participating donors were Spain, USAID, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. Led by Karen Kenny the team included Jorge Taiana (formerly Secretary General of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Patty Abozaglo (of Trócaire development NGO) and Grahame Morphey (of Chrysalis Management Solutions). The report is not a public document.

The Right to Participate in International Human Rights Fieldwork, by Karen Kenny.

Available in English - Summary or Full Text.