Archives may not directly prevent human rights abuses. But archivists and other RIM professionals interested in the field should make it their duty to appraise, arrange, describe, and make available the recorded information according to the best current standards and practices. Here is a roster of credible sources and useful links for any archivist or information professional looking to integrate their work in the context of human rights or social justice work. Accompanying each of the links are brief reviews for each organization and/or website.
Originally known as Archiveros sin Fronteras, AwB started in Spain in 1998. It has since expanded to include a network spanning most of Latin and South America, France, and recently the US as AwB International (AsF Internacional). This non-profit organization is heavily invested in promoting and propagating practices in documentary heritage preservation with an emphasis on protecting human rights in the societies they serve.
Document Affinity Group (DAG)
This group does not have a website, per se. However they fall under the purview of the Affinity Group, which is affiliated with the ICTJ (see below). DAG is a project of the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). The website lists the best examples of historical and social justice archives containing documents and records pertaining to human rights crimes, such as genocide atrocities.
Hivos believes that international cooperation requires knowledge collaboration. They aim to bridge gaps and create partnerships between practitioners and academics to tackle the work of CSOs involved in research for development. They focus a lot of the use and deployment of social media and ICT to achieve common goals.
I was directed here by a former colleague of mine at the UN, Emmanuelle Pyrz Van Damme. This website follows the wiki-model allowing users to participate in promoting human rights by contributing relevant media content. The Hub is the brainchild of WITNESS (see below) another human rights organization that uses the power of media to raise awareness of human rights violations. However I believe the site is no longer maintained by WITNESS as a caveat on the homepage reads: “WITNESS does not vouch for the veracity, accuracy, authenticity of any content uploaded on the Hub”. Nevertheless I still check the “SEE IT” tab for related current events.
If you or your organization are searching for tools to document or record human rights violations and related matters, this site is a goldmine. HURIDOCS (Human Rights Information & Documentation Systems) is an organization that was recommended to me by my friend and former colleague Noah Kaplan during our time at Human Rights Watch. It is a trusted and useful site for turning ideals into practical applications.
From my encounters with some professionals in the field, and from what I have read in certain academic journals, the ICA (International Council on Archives) has yet to properly address how archives can serve to uphold human rights in concrete terms. In fact, it appears as though efforts here have slowed as their page was last updated with a post from 2009. Nevertheless, this organization is regarded an authoritative source in academic circles for archivists of any persuasion. Click on the ICA.org to go to the ICA homepage where you can find other archive groups, inter alia. (Please note, the organization is exclusive; you must have membership to sign in and view some of the pages).
One of the first publications on human rights documentation I read was produced by the ICTJ (International Center for Transitional Justice). The publication is titled, “Documenting Truth” (go to the Publications category under the Featured Posts area of this blog for a copy). It is an invaluable educational tool to start researching the multi-faceted issues surrounding documentation and records in this field. I discovered this publication as it was featured on HURIDOCS. Go to the Policymakers & Networks page of the ICTJ site for a link to their Affinity Groups, one of which is called “Documents and Confronting the Past“.
This is a perennial favorite organization of mine. They function as a consultancy service and have accomplished a lot of good work (under their Projects and Products page, see “Consultancy Projects“). Their aim is to improve the efficiency, governance, and accountability of public sector information in developing nations.
The New Tactics in Human Rights is a collaborative project and their website provides an interactive forum for activists networks and organizations involved in human rights work to share resources and tools. The nature of collaboration and community is what makes this site unique. The site is a reputable source. It has been recommended by Grace Lile of WITNESS Media Archive and often mirrors the work of HURIDOCS where it is referenced from time to time. Their online dialogues include discussions on developing database systems to document violations and practitioners’ testimonies of such systems, grassroots organizations documenting violations, and current training on documentation approaches.
Check this OSF site if you are interested in work concerning access to knowledge, civil society communication, and information policy. The program supports initiatives in intellectual property rights reform, open access and other library initiatives in developing countries, information privacy rights, and communication tools to improve civil society.
The Records & Infomation Management Awareness Foundation is an non-profit organization dedicated to the professional records and information needs in Africa. I’ve only recently discovered this organization. It seems that their discussions and newletter topics cover a lot of questions around the security of data and information in the electronic environment. Because of the difference in ICT capabilities in most regions in Africa, the concerns raised may take on a new perspective than those regularly discussed in outside the global south.
The Swiss Peace Foundation (SwissPeace) have a project called Archives and Dealing with the Past. It’s a joint venture between them, the Swiss Federal Archives, and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. The project mandate aligns with the purposes of this site in offering a hub between archivists/documentalists and human rights activists dealing with the past. Members of the ICA Human Rights Working Group serve on their Advisory Board and their presence becomes clear in the goals of the project. One specific aim of the project is to foster knowledge exchange between the two aforementioned professional communities and engage in knowledge management activities by collaborating with the ICA HRWG on similar projects.
This organization has a website and a blog site. This organization’s blog site is what my blog aspires to be. The blog has a separate category called “Archiving Human Rights” which has been a consistent source of exciting and current happenings in the field.