Posts Tagged activist

Strategising Online Activism Toolkit

The Association for Progressive Communication Women’s Networking Support Programme (APC-WNSP) and Violence is Not Our Culture(VNC) have collaborated to design a toolkit to develop certain skills in online activism.   Strategising Online Activism: A Toolkit was inspired by the workshops held in Asia and Africa for the partners and members of the Violence is not our Culture (VNC) campaign.

While this toolkit has been designed primarily for the local partners and activists of the VNC campaign, this can be a resource, too, for human rights activists who are keen to develop their online activism and want to know where and how to to start.  Through this toolkit we hope that campaigners will acquire the following skills:

– An understanding of why and how information and communication technologies (ICTs) can be appropriated by women’s rights and human rights groups in their advocacy skills through their use of online tools, including networking and mobile tools for advocacy and campaigning

– The ability to develop an advocacy / communication strategy

– Knowing what social neworking is and the various spaces and tools they could use in their online activism

– An understanding of online privacy and security issues relevant to building their online activism…

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Advancing Children’s Rights – A Guide for African Civil Society

This past month, Plan and Save the Children Sweden have collaborated to produce a second edition of this guide on how civil society organisations can best engage with the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Children (ACRWC).  This guide has been developed in collaboration with African civil society organisations, academics and members of the Committee.  .

Africa is the only continent with a region-specific child rights instrument.  The ACRWC, adopted in 1990 by the Organisation of African Unity (disbanded 2002), is an important tool for African child rights activists as it complements the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Though much progress has been made to promote the ACRWC, still more needs to be done to make this important human rights treaty accessible for civil society and state institutions in Africa.

This guide aims to be a resource for civil society organisations who are interested in finding out more about the ACRWC and the Committee.  The publication highlights methods on data collection, documenting information, and the use of official parliamentary/legislative records.  It contains practical advice and information on how civil society can engage with the Committee to advance children’s rights in Africa.  This edition reflects important developments relating to the Committee’s work, civil society organisations’ engagement with the Committee and the functioning of the CSO Forum on the ACRWC (note the special mention of the CSO Forum database).

The publication of the French version of the Guide is scheduled for May 2011. An Arabic version is also foreseen.

All comments you may have to help improve this edition are most welcome. Please send any input to Åsa Rapp Baro, Regional Advisor, Save the Children Sweden West Africa ( and Stefanie Conrad, Deputy Regional Director Programs, Plan West Africa (

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Justice Served in Guatemala: Testimonies from The National Security Archive & Benetech’s Human Rights Data Analysis Group

On October 28, 2010, two former Guatemalan police officers accused of the 1984 abduction and forced disappearance of Labour Party activist, Edgar Fernando Garcia, were sentenced to 40 years in prison.  The indictments and sentencing were long overdue.  Last week Kate Doyle, a Senior Analyst at The National Security Archive (NSA), and Daniel Guzman, a statistician with Benetech, testified as expert witnesses for the prosecution in the trial of ex-police officers, Hector Roderico Rios and Abrahan Lancerio.

I was introduced to the Guatemalan National Police Archives and the contributions made therein by Kate Doyle, by way of award-winning documentary filmmaker Pamela Yates (Pamela was generous with her time in explaining to me her own projects which shed light on the atrocities in Guatemala).  Doyle’s earlier assessment of the Death Squad Dossier a military logbook documenting the disappearances of Guatemalans during the civil war violence of the mid 1980s, provided the watershed moment that allowed families of victims to pursue collective legal action.  Doyle has been a committed advocate of truth commissions in Latin America for nearly two decades.  Her work with the NSA, a long-standing partner of the Guatemala Human Rights Office, has brought justice by advocating openness in society and transparency in government.  Doyle currently serves as advisor to the archivists of the Archives of the National Police in Guatemala.

Last week’s successful trial highlights some points on the importance of records for use as legal evidence.  In an interview with The WITNESS Blog, Doyle portrays this case as representative of a serious violation of one’s right to information.  Edgar Fernando Garcia’s wife, Nineth Montenego de Garcia, was for years denied access to information as to her husband’s disappearance.  A vigorous proponent of Freedom of Information (FOI) laws, Doyle condemns this silence of the state and continues to stress the use of archival records as evidence of human rights violations to seek justice.  Needless to say, the availability of the records from the archive undoubtedly opened the Garcia case.  According to a post on the NSA blog, Unredacted, Doyle writes that the “indictments…were the first to be based on evidence found by the investigators among records inside the Historical Archive of the National Police.”

Another impressive feature of the proceedings was the testimony of statitician Daniel Guzman.  Guzman is a consultant with the Benetech Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG).  HRDAG performed a, sort of, records forensics analysis on a sampling of the records to produce a statistical analysis of the data in the records, which was then presented in court.  The prosecution used the analyzed data to make it abundantly evident that Garcia’s disappearance was part of a systematic pattern of the state to eliminate opponents during the 1983-86 regime of General Oscar Mejia.

HRDAG is a project offshoot of Benetech and it’s work exemplifies one of the novel ways archival records may be used in similar legal cases.  Benetech’s purpose to apply technology in effecting change is strategic.  They target three thematic areas in their work: Environment, Literacy, and Human Rights.  The defend human rights by using information management to analyze records and provide technical assistance to other organizations, commissions,  and groups to resolve conflicts and improve lives.  HRDAG is a unique and promising amalgam of information management, statistics, and technology for the human rights movement.  Their success in Guatemala, which made the arrests of the ex-police officers possible, may prove to have similar applications in places like the Congo where civil war fuels human rights abuses.

Read Kate Doyle’s post Unredacted

Read WITNESS’ interview with Kate Dolye on activism in archives

Read FRONTLINE/World’s article on Benetech

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Comments on “Archives for Change: Activist Archives, Archival Activism”

Only yesterday did I notice the WITNESS Blog post, Archives for Change.  Archivists Watch (AW) was conceived just before this particular WITNESS post was placed online at the end of September.  And like the post, AW is partly dedicated to defining the work of a breed of archivists Grace Lile terms the “activist archivist” in her article.

I was glad to see an authority like Lile dare to use the term even if only half in jest.  I certainly am in no position to chance such liberties, although the thought did cross my mind two months ago at AW’s inception.  I should also credit the main proponent of this idea, renowned archivist Verne Harris, who I had the pleasure of seeing once at an informal talk given at the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto.  That being said, I regret not having cross-posted on October’s WITNESS dialogue as Ms. Lile was kind enough to extend an invitation for me to guest blog on the site.  I’d like to draw attention to Archives for Change, here and now.

To begin with, in the Iraq WikiLeaks article I posted from The New Yorker earlier in the week, I painted what is probably the popular view of the traditional archivist – a caricature of passivity and at the same time guardedness.  A picture of just another civil servant following established protocol without question, an archivist whose loyalty lays first to the state or institution for which s/he works, and second to the citizens.  There was a time when that fundamental archival principle of neutrality was supplanted and subsumed by this notion of the passive archivist.  Now, many archivists looking to enact change by providing a means of redress by which to confront injustices have taken issue with previous notions of neutrality.  This is not a new debate.  And any archivist and records manager (professionals of the same pedigree, albeit working from opposite ends of the records continuum/life cycle spectrum) is no stranger to the debate of the evolving role of the archivist.  In general terms, this debate lies between the passive or “neutral” Jenkinsonian archivist, and the emerging breed of active, or as Lile puts it, activist archivist.

The concept of the activist archivist thrives in the age of born digital documents where the gap between the creation of a record, its use, its final disposition begin to close, overlap, and blur.  The prevalence of information production and use have forced those in the profession to reevaluate standards and practices and this has its obvious implications on social justice and public interest.  Lile references Howard Zinn’s 1970 address to the Society of American Archivists in her remarks.  I’m glad she does so, because his thoughts on modern archives and the duty of archivists parallel the principles and ideals behind AW.

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Tactical Dialogue on Research for Participatory Action

I discovered a new website care of HURIDOCS this morning called New Tactics in Human Rights.  Each month New Tactics conducts online tactical dialogues in which the public is invited to participate in discussions regarding resources and tools for human rights activists networks and organizations.  New Tactics urges those interested to join in on their upcoming online dialogue, Participatory Research for Action to be held on November 17 to 23.

Here is some more from their website:

Participatory research can create credible and critical documentation at the grassroots level.  Not only can the information be utilized in advocacy and lobbying efforts, the research process itself can serve to create a network of activists, informing organizations working on issues that impact study participants, and directly benefiting the people themselves.

Participatory research is about “connecting victims of human rights violations to the information they need to become active defenders of their right and to develop creative solutions to human rights challenges.” (Chubashini Suntharalingam, Research for Action)

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Welcome to Archivists Watch!

In the spirit of defending of human rights and for the activist in all of us archivists out there, this is a forum from which debate may be fomented, resolutions found, and new ideas born.  Please feel free to contribute comments to the posts, or suggest posts to feature on AW at  All manner of information professionals are welcomed!



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