Be a better rights defender

LWF South Sudan Advocacy Officer Pauline Tikiba shares about her work with civil society organizations. Photo: LWF/ C. Kästner
LWF South Sudan Advocacy Officer Pauline Tikiba shares about her work with civil society organizations. Photo: LWF/ C. Kästner

Workshop on rights-based approach brings together experiences from 10 project countries

(LWI) - How to end sexual and gender-based violence for refugees in Uganda, to provide fair access to justice to juvenile delinquents, to support indigenous communities in their struggle to land and citizenship rights? How to use the weight of international advocacy to bring out those positive impacts at the grass-roots ? How to make sure that the long, patient process of human rights advocacy work changes people’s lives for the better? – These were some of the questions addressed during a 3-day global workshop on Rights-Based Approach ‘Local to Global’ from 8-10 October in Geneva.

25 participants from the LWF country programs in Angola, Chad, Colombia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, South Sudan and Uganda, as well as from partner agencies, shared best practices and stories of impact from the ground. In thematic workshops, they then explored how to build coalitions with civil society organizations at a national level, to mainstream advocacy work, and to apply this to specific themes such as climate justice, human rights, gender justice and interfaith work in their programs.

Share experiences

“The intention of the workshop was to strengthen the impact of LWF’s work alongside people at local level by bringing together colleagues who are linking local level work with communities, to national and international engagement with key actors who can make a difference,” says LWF Regional Program Coordinator Michael French. “The idea is to use this approach more throughout LWF’s work, to bring about sustainable change. We also want to extend it to cover more areas like climate change, gender justice, peace and social cohesion on an interfaith basis.”

The intention of the workshop was to strengthen the impact of LWF’s work alongside people at local level by bringing together colleagues who are linking local level work with communities, to national and international engagement with key actors who can make a difference.
Michael FRENCH, LWF Regional Program Coordinator

Discussions revealed different experiences in the national contexts. Some country programs, such as Nepal and Myanmar, have a long track record in supporting marginalized communities, or collecting and submitting so-called “shadow reports” to the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Situation at the United Nations.

In Angola, community-led Justice and Peace Officer Calucango Caseno presented the case of land grabbing in a community in Moxico province, Eastern Angola, where thanks to LWF empowerment the community took the case up to the national level and in the end got back a large part of their land.

Challenges in advocacy work

Other programs have only just started this kind of work, or face challenges in operating with   legal frameworks and government policies that do not allow them to work freely on human rights issues. The question of land and land rights touches on interests of powerful individuals, whose interests may be linked to government policy. The fight against terrorism in some countries has led to restrictive measures that target certain communities, often refugees.

“One of our challenges was to identify concrete indicators on how to follow up the implementation of accepted UPR recommendations by the respective governments, said LWF Senior Advocacy Officer, Fabian Wilches. “We were also discussing how to link land rights and refugee rights to other UPR recommendations.”

Advocacy staff from the different country programs meet in this manner approximately every two years, which also gives new colleagues the opportunity to learn from more experienced staff. “This workshop provided a good opportunity to share experiences on how to work at local and national level on advocacy,” said LWF Senior Advocacy Officer Wilches. “It is also valuable for them to see that apart from the work they are doing on local and national level, there is an additional leverage in being connected with the global level through LWF in Geneva.”