The moral and legal authority of the international human rights movement derives from its steadfast commitment to international human rights law and norms. The credibility and the effectiveness of human rights advocacy depends on the ability to obtain, verify and disseminate reliable information about human rights violations. International human rights organizations and their domestic counterparts gain legitimacy and expand their influence as a result of…
- the rigorous quality of their research and
- their effectiveness at deploying information to produce human rights change.
This section of the website introduces the human rights fact-finding, reporting and advocacy practices that have been central to the international human rights movement. The pages linked below trace the emergence of standard practices of collecting and documenting evidence of human rights violations and illustrate how research methodology has innovated with the emergence of new technologies and in new contexts like intra-state war.
Standard methodology does not imply static methodology. Only recently, the availability of satellites and the spread of social media have made new sources of evidence available. Human rights researchers have learned to incorporate new technologies into their work, of course, but they have also been challenged to re-think some of their approaches–on gender, for example, and on victimization. Human rights monitors are now regularly trained to minimize the possibility of re-traumatizing those who have experienced human rights violations, and a strong preference to refer to survivors rather than victims. In recent years human rights organizations have begun to show greater sensitivity to obtaining consent of individuals whose stories are featured in their reporting, and to the inclusion of rights holders in framing questions and conducting research.
In some cases, reflections and critiques about research methodology have pointed to the need for new or improved policy. For example, experience with forensic science investigations has led to concern about the need for policies that encompass training, chain of custody requirements, and evidentiary standards.