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Mapping for Human Rights and Social Justice Violations

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In the context of human rights violations, mapping is the process of understanding systematically and then graphically portraying human rights violations. First we understand the actors and then we understand their relationships to one another. What's important about this mapping exercise is that it includes a range of actors: victims, protectors of human rights, and adversaries. and the position of these actors on multiple spatial levels, that is the local, the regional, the national and the international. The groups, the relationships and the channels for activism identified in the mapping help organizations and individuals formulate responses and tactics and provide a platform for the crucial integration between understanding and action. It can help us to untangle the complexities and the dynamics that lead to and sustain human rights violations and abuses. Mapping can be used to identify power structures, for example the flow of information and resources. It allows for active participation of effected communities. It is flexible and it can be used to analyze both an overall situation as well as specific types of human rights violations or abuses. Sometimes the difference between a successful and a less successful campaign is knowing which actors to focus on whom to try to influence or pressure or target. And those actors are not necessarily the ones that we might originally think of. The mapping technique starts with a specific violation: an instance of abuse that can be boiled down to one individual violating the rights of another. Now, of course not all human rights violations follow this path and the mapping exercise can be amended for that purpose. But, for now, let's just focus on one or two individuals. "So, I want to just start with looking at the video. This is going to give you a sense of the specific violation that I'm talking about." "The first thing we're going to ask you to do after you understand what's happened is to map the exercise." The victim and the perpetrator are placed at the center of the map. From there, the key actors for each of them is listed and the nature of the relationship noted. "And I want you to kind of think about the colors that you might use for mapping." "Perhaps you're going to have different colors or shapes for specific kinds of actors." "How powerful are these actors? Maybe specific sizes of the shapes." "In which direction does the power move? Is the relationship positive or adversarial?" Is the relationship financial or political or social or perhaps even sexual? We have started on the local level and moved concentrically out from there to note community members, and local religious leaders, and schools. From there, the relationships grow more distant but no less important. "Relationships determine how decisions are made, how incentives are given or taken away, and how actions are done." National, regional and finally international bodies are noted, as is their relationship with other actors. This can be a daunting task, and the specificity and comprehensiveness with which it will be approached will of course depend on the time that the mapper has. It can be done in an afternoon or over the course of a few weeks or much longer. After the map is complete, the next stage begins: brainstorming interventions. That is, the mapper examines the relationships identified and asks two questions: which relationships could actually result in changes of behavior or policy, and in which relationships can I intervene most effectively? Now, often there isn't a lot of overlap between these two questions, and that's when it makes sense to work with others to strategize which interventions to choose. The mappers chose about five interventions and use sticky notes to place them on the map. If groups are mapping the same exercise, you can see where there are common points of leverage and where on the map it might be useful to add more pressure. In this way, actors work together to prioritize the most important levers for change. If we want to understand, really understand a human rights violation we have to understand the political, economic, cultural, and social contexts that undergird that violation. It's not enough to say, "a law has been broken" or, "a treaty has been ignored" If we really want to respond to that abuse, we need to understand the roots of where it came from and mapping helps us to do that. New Tactics in Human Rights is a program of the Center for Victims of Torture

Video Details

Duration: 5 minutes and 5 seconds
Country: Australia
Language: English
Producer: University of Sydney
Director: University of Sydney
Views: 76
Posted by: newtactics on Feb 12, 2014

Susan Banki of the University of Sydney explains why visually mapping the relationships that surround a human rights issue is important in identifying effective strategies, and she shares the steps involved in this activity.

Thank you to the Department of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Sydney for creating and sharing this video with New Tactics!

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