Human Rights Activism

Human rights activism is engaged in by people who believe that everyone in the world is entitled to agreed standards of treatment.

People’s concerns about aspects of human rights in other countries can be expressed in several ways:

●  They can demonstrate outside embassies or at high-profile events. The impact of demonstrations is then amplified by the Internet and traditional media to put pressure directly on the politicians responsible – as described in the BBC report, Clashes along Olympic torch route, when protests put pressure on China in 2008.

●  Journalists know that people respond to news stories which excite moral indignation, so reporters are motivated to investigate and uncover human rights abuses. For example, a CNN report in March 2012, Slavery’s last stronghold, drew attention to the continued existence of slavery in Mauritania – putting pressure on its government.

●  Concern about the working conditions of people in developing countries prompted the rise of the Fair Trade Foundation, which enables people to put economic pressure on suppliers by refusing to buy goods that they feel have been unethically produced.

These forms of human rights activism take moral concerns in one country and turn them into political and economic pressure on another.

People might also urge the use of force to protect people’s human rights against a regime which is harming its own people – as when The Economist published an article, Hit him hard, in one of many (unsuccessful) calls for intervention in Syria’s civil war in 2013.  The article suggested “limited punishment of such severity that Mr Assad is deterred from ever using WMD again”, as a demonstration of human rights concerns, without aiming at regime change (which would have risked serious instability).



This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/4352a.htm.