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Internationalizing human rights organizations - why, how, and at what cost?

Human rights organizations, networks and movements are expanding, broadening, and internationalizing. Groups based in the global north are trying to sink southern roots, while groups based in the south are trying to become more cross regional and global. Donors, such as Ford Foundation and the Open Society Foundations, are supporting these changes. In this debate we explore why, how, and at what cost internationalization is taking place in the global human rights community.

Photo: Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock (All rights reserved)

Less money, more risk: the struggle for change in women’s rights

With fewer resources and greater risks, sustainable change in women’s rights internationally means supporting local women’s collective action and power. EspañolFrançais


The realpolitik of rights and democracy

What happens when human rights and democracy do not only advance Western foreign policy, but also contribute to producing, not reducing, poverty?


Internationalisation: lessons from the women’s movement

The internationalization debate can learn a lot from women’s movements in terms of opening spaces and opportunities for the voiceless. Français


Are humanitarian aid and professional ambition mutually exclusive?

The professionalization of human rights organizations is only effective if management adapts their strategies. An amateur mentality simply will not work. Français


Do African rights groups have the "how" to internationalise?

Internationalising human rights work in Africa will always be a distant dream unless rights groups operate beyond survivability.


Towards a multipolar civil society

With the world more multipolar than ever, why is civil society power still disproportionately located in the global North?  Español, Português


When internationalization causes more harm than good

Focusing on the practicalities of internationalization neglects a vital and thorny question: is going global really in the interests of all rights groups? Français, Españolالعربية


One-way street: can internationalization ever be South-North?

North-South internationalization must be an alliance of equals, not simply a Northern expansion.


How does professionalization impact international human rights organizations?

The more transnational human rights groups become, the more likely they are to professionalize. This, in turn, can influence the sector’s values. EspañolFrançais


Decentralizing can make global human rights groups stronger

NGO internationalization is now trendy, but ActionAid realized long ago that giving up power doesn’t mean having less power. EspañolFrançais


A Geneva Spring? Why civil society needs North-South solidarity

International human rights institutions are weak, but true North-South solidarity in civil society could challenge a broken system. Español, Português


Internationalization is about more than just advocacy

As NGOs create global brands rather than a “global civil society”, internationalization reaches beyond human rights advocacy. Français


Playing both ends against the middle

The idea of a “global middle” assumes that human rights transcend borders. But do they really? EspañolFrançaisالعربية


Internationalizing human rights NGOs is not a zero-sum game

Internationalizing human rights NGOs can benefit everyone; it’s not a zero sum game. EspañolPortuguês


New trend, old roots: “internationalization” in Amnesty’s history

For Amnesty International, the growing trend of “internationalization” has very old roots. Español


Transnational rights violations call for new forms of cooperation

Human rights violations are increasingly transnational, yet there are no organizations addressing human rights in Israel’s foreign policy. العربية ,עבריתEspañolFrançais


Human rights diversity goes beyond North-South relations

Diversifying the global human rights movement involves more than North-South restructuring. EspañolFrançaisالعربية


A time for change? The future of INGOs in international human rights

Representativeness and access in the human rights arena is crucial, but is decentralization really the best move? EspañolFrançaisالعربية


Don’t ditch the “local” when scrambling to “go global”

We cannot afford to globalize human rights at the expense of local context. To be sustainable and effective, local activists must lead and adapt human rights initiatives to their specific circumstances. EspañolFrançaisالعربية


Long before “internationalization”: Human Rights Watch and local collaborations in Russia

Despite a hostile climate and many different challenges, the collaborations of Human Rights Watch with local Russian organizations continue to be the key for making real change. Ру́сский


Home and abroad: balancing Brazil’s human rights commitments

Emerging countries like Brazil are at a turning point, struggling to balance their domestic issues with their international aspirations. EspañolPortuguês


How do we solve structural inequality in global networks?

It’s time to relocate power centres in the top-heavy human rights network. The savvy use of network tactics is the best approach: cultivating southern “hubs”, empowering global south activists to access northern centres, and thinking broadly about network power in global civil society. Español


Multiple boomerangs: new models of global human rights advocacy

The global human rights field is being transformed, and activists are inventing new, less hierarchical models of collaboration, including global virtual networks and “multiple boomerangs.” Español


Coming together, or falling apart?

International human rights groups are a big help when developing transnational norms; decentralizing these NGOs risks robbing them of their key strength. EspañolFrançaisالعربية


Moving Amnesty closer to the ground is necessary, not simple

The rapidly changing global structure and the rise of emerging powers require Amnesty to work in a more bottom-up manner. Now, for the first time ever, there is a real possibility of doing so. EspañolFrançaisالعربية


Convergence towards the global middle: an emerging architecture for the international human rights movement

As international rights groups move “closer to the ground” and domestic groups reach out internationally, the human rights community is converging. Can we harness this movement towards the middle to more effectively realize rights? EspañolFrançaisالعربية


To truly internationalize human rights, funding must make sense

Do western donors want to “internationalize” the human rights movement, or do they want to retain control while including a few token Africans? It’s time for long-term and sustainable funding that makes sense. EspañolFrançaisالعربية


All articles in date order:

Less money, more risk: the struggle for change in women’s rights

With fewer resources and greater risks, sustainable change in women’s rights internationally means supporting local women’s collective action and power. A contribution the openGlobalRights debate on internationalizing human rights organizationsEspañolFrançais

The realpolitik of rights and democracy

What happens when human rights and democracy do not only advance Western foreign policy, but also contribute to producing, not reducing, poverty? A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on internationalizing human rights organizations.

Internationalisation: lessons from the women’s movement

The internationalisation debate can learn a lot from women’s movements in terms of opening spaces and opportunities for the voiceless. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on internationalising human rights organizationsFrançais

Are humanitarian aid and professional ambition mutually exclusive?

The professionalization of human rights organizations is only effective if management adapts their strategies. An amateur mentality simply will not work. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on internationalizing human rights organizations. Français

Do African rights groups have the “how” to internationalise?

Internationalising human rights work in Africa will always be a distant dream unless rights groups operate beyond survivability. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on internationalising human rights organisations.

Towards a multipolar civil society

With the world more multipolar than ever, why is civil society power still disproportionately located in the global North? A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on Internationalizing human rights organizations. Español, Português

When internationalization causes more harm than good

Mashru1Focusing on the practicalities of internationalization neglects a vital and thorny question: is going global really in the interests of all rights groups? A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on internationalizing human rights organizations. Français, Españolالعربية

One-way street: can internationalization ever be South-North?

North-South internationalization must be an alliance of equals, not simply a Northern expansion. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on internationalizing human rights organizations.