International campaigning and mobilisation
International campaigning and mass mobilization are often central to building legitimacy and convincing governments to take action on human rights issues. Here are a few examples of international campaigns and what they have achieved:
Campaign for an Arms Trade Treaty
- More than one million people have called for action to prevent weapons falling into the hands of human rights abusers.
- Since the start of this campaign, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of governments supporting a treaty.
- The international community has agreed to start drafting an International Arms Trade Treaty, which will require governments involved in the arms trade to act in accordance with international human rights and humanitarian standards.
International campaign to ban landmines
- A network of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) joined with supportive governments to take action to ban landmines.
- The Ottawa Convention of 1997, which bans the use, production and export of landmines, has been ratified by 153 countries.
- The use of landmines is now widely condemned.
Campaign to end violence and discrimination against women
- Women human rights defenders all over the world have led and participated in campaigns to end violations against them, often challenging social, cultural or religious norms.
- Numerous victories have been won, but women human rights defenders in some countries remain at risk.
- International Women’s Day, 8 March, and women human rights defenders day, 29 November, are marked all over the world as a focus for celebrating successes and expressing support for women human rights defenders who are challenging the impunity of perpetrators of violations against women.
Individuals and communities
While international mobilization can be effective, the defence of human rights starts at the level of individuals and their communities. Solutions that are grounded in this context can have an international impact:
- Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, started a micro-finance movement by providing small loans to the poor.
- From that initiative, a micro-finance movement has grown which has empowered marginalized individuals and communities to access a wide range of rights.
- It has also advanced the international understanding of the indivisibility of rights, and of poverty as a human rights violation.
The impact of companies on human rights
Human rights defenders are also responding to the increasing impact of companies on the enjoyment of human rights by developing strategies to address them and by demanding that they uphold human rights.
Companies are not legally bound by international human rights treaties, but they are responsible for upholding human rights in their sphere of influence.
International legal systems to hold companies accountable still remain weak, but human rights defenders have raised awareness and increased public scrutiny of their policies:
- Nearly 1,300 companies have made voluntary human rights commitments by signing the United Nations Global Compact.
- In the Kimberley Process, international NGOs, governments and campaigners came together to establish voluntary codes of conduct on the trade of diamonds to prevent it from fuelling war and human rights abuses.
Many human rights defenders continue to demand that companies be subject to legally binding principles.