Human Rights Capacity-Building Programme
HURICAP strengthens the capacity of human rights organisations and activists in Africa and the Middle East with the aim to help them be more effective in defending the rights of their communities.
In close collaboration with local partners and national and regional Amnesty offices, HURICAP develops projects that run for 1-3 years. The projects generally involve clear agreements on training, coaching, financial and material support, as well as on expected outcomes and results. In addition, HURICAP develops training material and handbooks to give guidance to human rights activists when researching and tackling specific human rights issues.
HURICAP emerged from the Special Programme on Africa (SPA), which was an initiative founded by Amnesty International The Netherlands and the International Secretariat in 1994 in reaction to the recurring conflicts and massive human rights violations in Sub-Saharan Africa. SPA aimed to develop new methods to strengthen the human rights movement in Africa.
What is the problem?
In many countries in Africa and the Middle East, the government is often unable or unwilling to secure the human rights of its population, despite them having committed to this duty by signing international agreements and by incorporating these rights in national law. Especially in countries marked by dictatorial regimes, deeply rooted poverty, inequality and armed conflict, people’s human rights are violated on a large scale. Local activists and organisations that fight for the rights of their communities often do not have sufficient capacity in terms of skills, knowledge and material room for manoeuvre to do this effectively.
HURICAP would like to strengthen the capacity of national and local human rights organisations and activists so that they are better able to – where necessary – educate people and raise awareness on human rights; research and document human rights violations and raise their findings with the relevant institutions; facilitate solutions for human rights issues; and improve people’s access to justice. The ultimate aim is that: (i) governments meet their obligations and fulfil their commitments; (ii) violations stop; (iii) perpetrators are brought to justice; and (iv) justice is sought for the victims and their relatives.
What does Amnesty do?
Building capacity of partner organisations
HURICAP strengthens the capacity of local partner organisations and human rights activists through training, coaching, advice and the development of handbooks and training materials; and offers financial and material support when needed.
At this moment, HURICAP supports various partner organisations in e.g. Uganda, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Mali in drawing attention to and addressing human rights violations committed by representatives of the government and/or armed groups. For example, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, sexual violence, arbitrary killings, destruction or the confiscation of property, the limitation of people’s freedom of movement, arbitrary arrest and detention. HURICAP trains local human rights defenders in monitoring, documenting and reporting human rights violations. Partner organisations learn about the difference between human rights and other types of violations of the law, including crimes/offences; but also how to collect evidence that can be used for prosecution. They learn to approach and interview victims of violations; to safely store their collected data; and to write reliable reports. In addition, time is dedicated to the safety and security of human rights defenders and of their relatives and contacts.
HURICAP also strengthens the capacity of partner organisations on Economic, Social and Cultural rights, such as on the right to work, social security, adequate food, housing, health, education, and water and sanitation. This is currently done in countries such as Burkina Faso, Burundi and Zimbabwe. Countries that have signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights have committed themselves to take steps to realise these rights, partly progressively, with their maximum available resources.
However, what does this mean in practice? What exactly is meant with ‘maximum available resources’? And what is meant with ‘progressive realisation’? In collaboration with HURICAP, partner organisations learn to understand which duties and responsibilities their governments have as a result of them signing this Covenant and other related agreements. They learn to map in which areas their government fails to protect, respect and fulfil these rights; to incorporate their findings in reports and to share these reports with relevant institutions, including the human rights mechanisms of the United Nations and the African Union. Reliable information gathered by the partner organisations can then be used to exert pressure on governments to take measures to assure these rights.
Developing new programmes
HURICAP is also currently developing a programme on ‘businesses and human rights’ which aims to enable communities to confront the power of businesses, as well as a programme on ‘effective advocacy and campaigning’.
You can now watch a video on HURICAP’s work. This video features the work of human rights monitors in South Kordofan (Sudan), who were trained by HURICAP. The video was made with the support of ASN Bank, which financially contributes to HURICAP’s work in Sudan, South-Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
HURICAP focusses mainly on rural areas, that receive less attention from national and international (human rights) organisations and where the knowledge and skills concerning human rights are often not in proportion to the gravity of the situation.
HURICAP does not randomly train every organisation and, in principle, does not provide ad hoc trainings. After all, one training is generally not enough to have a lasting impact on the capacity of partner organisations. Moreover, capacity building goes beyond training, and also involves coaching, providing advice, being able to network effectively, do effective fundraising – and possibly other financial and material support. HURICAP therefore develops mid-term programmes with her partners in order to ensure the quality of her work in the long run. Before partnering with local organisations, however, HURICAP always undertakes an extensive assessment of both the context in the country and the partner(s).
HURICAP collaborates with national and regional Amnesty offices in Africa and the Middle East, who in turn may also collaborate with HURICAP’s local partners for the benefit of their research and campaigns.
For the training of partner organisations, HURICAP has a network of African trainers (Francophone and Anglophone) at its disposal.
Over the past years, HURICAP has trained and supported a large number of organisations and activists, and as a result, they are now much better able to research violations, to seek publicity and to defend their rights. They use their knowledge and skills to inform their co-citizens on their rights and call on local authorities to respect them. A good example is the programme in Burundi. Within this programme, trained volunteers have reached out to thousands of people in their country. Moreover, special sessions targeting local authorities resulted in a greater understanding of their human rights responsibilities and the violations they had actually been involved in.
Considering her long experience in conflict and post-conflict areas, in 2016 HURICAP decided to develop a capacity-building programme for the Middle East and North Africa (the MENA region). Early 2017, a pool of Arabic speaking trainers will be trained in training techniques used by HURICAP. Moreover, their knowledge in monitoring, documenting and reporting human rights violations will be expanded. Over the course of 2017, HURICAP will – with the help of this new pool of trainers –facilitate several other trainings for local partner organisations and activists from e.g. Syria, Egypt and Iraq. As of 2017, HURICAP will also work with local human rights organisations in the Gambia, the Central-African Republic, Somalia/Somaliland and the north of Cameroon.
Advocacy & campaigning
In 2016, HURICAP also made important steps in the development of capacity-building programmes on advocacy and campaigning, as well as on businesses and human rights. HURICAP organised a pilot-training for her local partners in Uganda with the aim to give them more insight into strategic campaigning and how they can use this to gain more respect and protection of their rights. In 2017, this pilot training will be further tested and developed, so that it will also match the needs of other partners in other countries.
New handbook series in development
In addition, HURICAP developed the first part of a new handbook series on business and human rights. This first part explains in easy language how businesses can be involved in human rights violations and which mechanisms exist for local human rights activists to address these violations. Part two of the handbook will be written in 2017 and will give more insight into the actions that activists can take when a business is not respecting the rights of their community.