From communities to constituencies for human rights

Mona Younis

As a human rights advocate I am grieved by our limited success in building strong and active human rights constituencies even in places where promoting human rights is not dangerous. Indeed, we have yet to effectively reach and engage the vast majority of the world’s communities in embracing – let alone claiming – human rights. To do so, there is much we can learn from the work of community philanthropy organizations (CPOs). There is also much that we can contribute to their vital efforts.

I’m going to make a bold claim: communities that are hostile or indifferent to human rights either do not know what they are or benefit from denying others the rights they already enjoy themselves. In that enormous space of communities that simply do not know there is tremendous opportunity for us to make genuine advances by simultaneously building human rights constituencies and supporting CPOs to realize inclusive and resilient communities.

Women vote for the first time in Kuwait.

However, first we must tackle some pervasive misconceptions that contribute to delaying the widespread public embrace of human rights, including in the global north. Two in particular have been especially damaging, both of which, regrettably, have been perpetuated by human rights practitioners, but both of which, community philanthropy can help to dispel.

 
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