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Human rights: mass or elite movement?

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights seeks to improve the life conditions, dignity, and well-being of society's most oppressed, vulnerable, and impoverished groups. The international human rights machinery, however, is embedded in high-flying international organizations, such as the United Nations, and in extremely elite professions, such as international diplomacy and law.

Are human rights principles, policies, and approaches coming down to earth? Can local civil society groups overcome the international human rights machinery's cultural, educational, and social barriers? Can they develop strong and explicit human rights constituencies among ordinary people? The articles in this section address these questions issues head-on, beginning with a description of new "Human Rights Perception Polls" in Mexico, India, Morocco, and Colombia.


The struggle for a truly grassroots human rights movement

Pilot testing Using cutting-edge human rights perception polls, the authors explore links between social class and domestic human rights movements in Mexico, Colombia, Morocco, and India. Social elites, they find, are better connected to human rights representatives than the masses. Translations: Español, Français, العربية, 中国语文, हिंदी, Português, Türkçe

Latest responses:

Do South Africans really have the right to protest?

Julian Brown

Activists in an international system: pushing for change in Sri Lanka

Ruki Fernando

Human rights at a crossroads: 18 months after Ayotzinapa

Janice Gallagher, Paula Martinez Gutierrez and Camila Ruiz Segovia

The streets at stake in Johannesburg

Dennis Webster

Nine months after Ayotzinapa, can a postcard campaign construct democratic spaces?

Alexandra Délano and Melissa Ortiz Massó

The human rights crisis: a problem of perception?

Neve Gordon and Nicola Perugini

In the UK, public discourse undermines support for human rights

Rachel Krys

Linking mass emigration, violence and human rights violations in Mexico

Benjamin Waddell

Mexico’s crisis is a rare opportunity for domestic rights groups

Karina Ansolabehere

Peña-Nieto, take note: Mexicans are embracing human rights

Jorge G. Castañeda

International “naming and shaming” of Mexico won’t suffice without massive domestic mobilization

Alejandro Anaya

Three decades of socialization later, Mexicans view “human rights” as their own

Natalia Saltalamacchia

Is the emerging middle class our best hope for global rights activism?

Doutje Lettinga

Palestinian rights activists must prove relevance

Rifat Odeh Kassis

Replacing the peace process with civil rights

Noam Sheizaf

Moroccans are protesting, but conditions aren’t improving

Amina Bouyach

Israeli rights groups don’t have to be popular to be effective

Jessica Montell

Strategic choices facing Israeli rights group during the current war

Dahlia Scheindlin

Can “the people” truly set the agenda?

Ursula Levelt

Internationalizing the human rights movement: creating a North-South bridge?

Iain Levine

East African rights activists are badly out of touch

Florence Ochago

Activists and elites: connecting the dots

Steve Crawshaw

Doing Orwell proud: “human rights” slogans in Mexico

Barbara Frey

Elites still matter when protecting human rights

Felipe Cordero

In defense of 'professional' human rights organizations

Fateh Azzam

Neither elites nor masses: protecting human rights in the real world

Janice Gallagher

Reforming and transforming: A multi-directional investigation of human rights

Karina Ansolabehere

Human rights for whom? A closer look at elitism and women's rights in Africa

Moiyattu Banya

Speaking with an elite accent: human rights and the "masses"

Ezequiel González-Ocantos

Human rights: a mirror for all

Eilat Maoz

Belief in common humanity is the first principle

Nidal Al-Azza

Fighting abuses in existing powers

Clifford Bob

Civil society, human rights and Jewish-Israeli communitarians

Liora Sion

Where is the humanism in Israel?

Lori Allen

Human Rights, "Human Beings" and Israel

Ian S. Lustick

The 'no grassroots' critique of human rights: fair or misleading?

Geoff Dancy

Making universalism resonate locally

Jessica Montell

Making human rights matter to the marginalised

Nicola Browne and Dessie Donnelly

International NGOs supporting grassroots movements: who talks and who listens?

Kate Nash

The antithesis of elitism

Shaurimoyo

A global human rights movement?

Peter Brett

All articles in date order

Do South Africans really have the right to protest?

South Africans’ right to protest exists on paper, but authorities have effectively suppressed dissent by making it too dangerous. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate: Human Rights: mass or elite movement?

Activists in an international system: pushing for change in Sri Lanka

Local and international activists have been crucial in getting a UN response in Sri Lanka. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate, Human rights: mass or elite movement?

Human rights at a crossroads: 18 months after Ayotzinapa

Eighteen months after Ayotzinapa, Mexican civil society has pulled together in new and promising ways to challenge the state. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate, Human Rights: mass or elite movement? Español

The streets at stake in Johannesburg

The struggle for the streets is crucial in making a better world, but whose stories are told is just as important. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate, Human Rights: Mass or Elite Movement? EspañolPortuguês

For Moroccan rights groups, good reputations aren’t enough

Without building a strong popular base, the Moroccan human rights community cannot capitalize on its good reputation. A contribution to openGlobalRights’ Public Opinion and Human Rights debate. Françaisالعربية

Nine months after Ayotzinapa, can a postcard campaign construct democratic spaces?

Citizen-led campaigns like #YaMeCansé are bringing Mexicans together in a widespread call for more accountability and better democracy. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate, Human Rights: Mass or Elite Movement?  Español

The human rights crisis: a problem of perception?

The main crisis of human rights is not about perceptions, but about deeply rooted problems in power and politics. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate, “Human rights: mass or elite movement?EspañolFrançaisالعربية

In the UK, public discourse undermines support for human rights

The UK media does not do justice to the phrase, “human rights”. Rights activists must shift their framework to earn the public’s support. A contribution to openGlobalRights’ Human Rights: masses or elite movement debate.