Legal Action/Frameworks

‘Stop stealing our stories’: The ethics of research with vulnerable groups

Pittaway, E., Bartolomei, L., & Hugman, R. (2010). ‘Stop stealing our stories’: The ethics of research with vulnerable groups. Journal of Human Rights Practice, 2(2), 229-251.

The article describes the ethics of doing research with vulnerable people, ethical thinking at an individual and organizational level and how to combine ethical sensitivity with strategic effectiveness. The authors argue that ethical inadequacies lead to the ill-treatment of vulnerable people as a means to achieve research results which breaches the basic principles of accepted research ethics.

This article focuses on the challenges and opportunities faced when using participatory methods into human rightsbased research. Specifically it focuses on ethical problems experienced while doing research with refugees and Internally Displaced People (IDPs). It further looks at the ethical concerns as raised by the refugees that the authors were working with. Reciprocal research which involves getting information from people through community consultation and training is also mentioned. The authors also describe how a human-rights based approach can be integrated with participatory methods that view the participants as people with dignity and strength from which they can negotiate their position in research.

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Civil Human Rights Litigation as a Tool for Social Change

Van Schaack, Beth . With All Deliberate Speed: Civil Human Rights Litigation as a Tool for Social Change, 57 VAND. L. REV. 2305 (2004)

This essay focuses on the impacts that litigation processes and outcomes can have on the community and their potential for social change at the community. It evaluates how litigation cases advance the human rights movements’ norms and ideals. Should human rights advocates promote an increase in public-interest litigation? Should they campaign for the adoption of similar litigations abroad? How can they ensure that these cases exert maximum impact on the people involved and their communities? These are some of the questions that are answered in the essay. The parties, such as human rights lawyers and NGOs, which can be involved in the process of using litigation to influence policy, have also been included in the essay. With an increase in this kind of public-interest litigation, there is concern over the methods and the coordination of all the people involved. Another major challenge is the possibility of retraumatizing the victims of human rights violations who are involved in the cases. The relationship between the lawyers and the clients also play a major role, a conflict of interests might harm the intended impact at the community. The essay also argues that public-interest litigation for social changes occurs alongside other processes of social change and the similarities and differences between the two are discussed. Litigation remains just one component of a multifaceted strategy toward the enforcement of human rights norms.

A Conceptual Roadmap for Social Science Methods in Human Rights Advocacy

Satterthwaite, Margaret L.  & Justin C. Simeone, An Emerging Fact-Finding Discipline? A Conceptual Roadmap for Social Science Methods in Human Rights Advocacy, NYU. 

This article argues that there is little work done on the research components and methodological standards in the field of human rights. To contribute to this discussion the authors first analyze the methods and components of researchers from two human rights organizations then they interrogate the nature of social scientific research and the degree to which it overlaps with human rights fact-finding research by comparing principles, components and methodological standards in research. The article also looks at the possibility of a Social Science discipline of human rights fact-finding given that the two overlap in methodology and objectives though not without divergence in other aspects such as perspectives.

Courts as Forums for Protest

Jules Lobel, Courts as Forums for Protest, 52 UCLA L. REV. 477 (2004)

This article focuses on courts as forums for protest. It argues that courts should not restrict debate on social issues that is sparked by lawsuits. It also suggests that judges should make rulings keeping in mind existing injustices in the society and rule in such a way that will encourage the government to address such injustices which might not be addressed otherwise. It puts forward the belief that winning or losing a case is not as important as influencing public debate on the issue in question. Various concepts are discussed in the book such as the model of the court as a forum for protest, the legitimacy of courts as forums for protests, articulation of norms and their enforcement and the role of lawyers in the courts as forums for protest.

Collaborative Lawyering in Transnational Human Rights Advocacy

Benjamin Hoffman & Marissa Vahlsing, Collaborative Lawyering in Transnational Human Rights Advocacy. NYU.

The authors, through their experiences working at the community level, seek to present a practical and detailed guide for implementing an effective model that can be used by other lawyers across the globe. It argues that the purpose of community lawyering is to “enable a group of people to gain control of the force which affect their lives.” Legal advocacy thus supports the effort of such communities challenging existing inequalities. The authors also identify ways through which collaborative legal action can be implemented in a shared vision of justice. The importance of working with community leaders to facilitate interaction with the community as well as social movements and activists is also stressed.

Tactical Mapping: How Nonprofits Can Identify the Levers of Change

Johnson, Douglas A.  & Nancy L. Pearson, Tactical Mapping: How Nonprofits Can Identify the Levers of Change, The Nonprofit Quarterly 92 (2009)

Human rights tactical mapping is a method of visualizing the relationships and institutions that surround, receive benefit from, and sustain human-rights abuses. Mapping helps human rights advocates to plan possible intervention methods and to decide on the target audience. The main argument is that since multiple groups can use the tactical map for their target audiences and interventions the tactical map becomes a coordinating tool that is more comprehensive than when groups work independently. The article then outlines how the tactical mapping technique developed through a project by the Center for Victims of Torture (CVT). Tactical mapping helps human rights defenders to understand the complexity of relationships involved, potential targets for intervention, and potential allies and opponents. The article also outlines how to map relationships with simple tools at the grassroots level such as a paper with coloured pens and Post-its. Development in technological tools has made it easier to map the relationship between institutions and individuals. The tactical map provides not only a means to visualize the web of relationships in which human-rights abuses occur but also concrete new tactics to combat these violations.

The Ethical Dilemmas of International Human Rights and Humanitarian NGOs

Daniel A. Bell & Joseph H. Carens, “The Ethical Dilemmas of International Human Rights and Humanitarian NGOs: Reflections on A Dialogue Between Practitioners and Theorists,” 26 HUM. RTS. Q. 300 (2004)

The paper focuses on the different ethical problems that humanitarian organizations face such as conflicts between human rights principles and local cultural norms and how these problems limit their work. Its main aim is analyzing the approaches that different humanitarian organizations use to deal with ethical issues and the advantages and disadvantages of each of these approaches. This, it suggests, is beneficial for practitioners working in this kind of organizations. It also argues that since the goal of political theory is to guide action then it must understand the choices that those involved in human rights work confront daily in their work. By looking at the four ethical dilemmas in depth the paper ends by saying that most responses to ethical dilemmas will depend on the context at hand.