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ICHRP's Contribution

Given the complexity of policy processes the ICHRP laid great emphasis on a collaborative approach, a discreet profile, and sharing rather than ownership. It considered its work as having made a critical contribution when, as a result of the process or outputs of research: key actors adopted its language or approach; a shift in thinking or approach ensued; the influence of human rights on policy expanded; or, human rights practice or theory was otherwise enriched. Some examples of the nature of ICHRP’s specific contributions are discussed below.

Most of ICHRP’s projects were forward looking, addressing emerging issues that were not yet a priority for the human rights movement. For example, Beyond Voluntarism (2000) helped to catalyse a new discussion of business responsibilities in relation to human rights and Duties Sans Frontières (2003) broke new ground in addressing obligations of governments in relation to economic and social rights beyond their borders. Climate Change and Human Rights: A Rough Guide (2008) demonstrated the relevance of human rights to climate justice. It was influential and informed work in the UN, human rights and environmental advocacy, and research and scholarship. It paved the way for important work on linking Climate Technology Policy and Human Rights (2011).

Other ICHRP projects proved very effective and timely responses to new institutional developments. For example, Performance & Legitimacy: National Human Rights Institutions (2000) and a follow-up project, Assessing the Effectiveness of National Human Rights Institutions (2005), undertaken jointly with UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), were the first major global enquiries of their kind and have been widely used across OHCHR, national institutions and civil society.

Many ICHRP projects also enabled significant new links between governance, public administration and human rights by treating major policy concerns from a human rights point of view. Corruption and human rights: making the connection (2008) and Integrating human rights in the anti-corruption agenda (2010) influenced the work of national anti-corruption and human rights institutions and lead to the rooting of human rights concerns within the work of anti-corruption organisations. They helped to align Transparency International’s policy-making more closely with the human rights framework and have been translated into many languages. Local Rule: Decentralisation and Human Rights (2002) and Local Government and Human Rights: Doing Good Service (2005) were amongst the first to examine decentralisation, public services and local government from a human rights point of view and clarify the policy links.

Other ICHRP projects were influential in generating fresh thinking on long-standing policy challenges or untangling controversial questions from a human rights viewpoint. For example, Local Perspectives: Foreign Aid to the Justice Sector (2000) engaged the interest of, and was used by, several donor agencies as a reference during policy discussions and continues to remain relevant. Similarly both Ends & Means: Human Rights Approaches to Armed Groups (2006) and Negotiating Justice? Human Rights & Peace Agreements (2006) brought a fresh human rights perspective to a complex set of problems and were appreciated by a range of national and international actors. Sexuality and Human Rights (2009) and Navigating the Dataverse (2011) are both examples of ICHRP work seeking to clear the way for more constructive engagement with complex and controversial issues by clarifying human rights concerns.

Other projects reviewed keys developments in human rights, identifying lessons learned and future challenges. Human Rights Standards: Learning from Experience (2006) examined the history of past standard-setting processes and provided insights for such work in the future. Catching the Wind (2007), ICHRP’s tenth anniversary report, reviewed major trends in society and human rights since the early 1990s and identified new challenges that will continue to require human rights attention in coming years.

ICHRP’s convening power was unique, and enabled human rights actors to engage in conversations and collaboration that would otherwise have been difficult, often leading to advancing new agendas. A 1999 convening in relation to ICHRP’s work on universal jurisdiction helped strengthen thinking and advocacy on the issue and is viewed as an important milestone. In a similar vein, a 2010 Colloquium brought together human rights advocates, development experts and macro-economists from around the world as well as senior representatives from multilateral and intergovernmental institutions, in conversation to help advance understanding of human rights considerations in economic policy making.

ICHRP’s work on legal pluralism, When Legal Worlds Overlap (2009) brought together advocates working on rights of women and indigenous people; lawyers; anthropologists; experts in rule of law, and law and development to develop human rights approach to questions of ’non-state’ or ‘customary’ justice and pluralism in family law etc. ICHRP’s work on Social Control (2010) brought together human rights advocates, criminologists, sociologists and experts in migration, urban planning, health and policing to develop a new understanding of state-driven social control measures across diverse policy areas. This in turn paved the way for a multi-disciplinary convening of activists and experts on penalising poverty (2011) which contributed significantly to a path breaking report from the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights to the UNGA on this issue (A/66/265).

The ICHRP actively engaged with a wide range of actors, drawing from and influencing their work, expanding the footprint of human rights on policy making. Close collaboration with several UN and other international agencies, as well as national and local NGOs, universities and research centres enabled wider dissemination and translations of ICHRP reports and summaries in several languages. More importantly, it led to them being widely used as tools in supporting advocacy, in training and capacity building, and as teaching and resource materials.

Read more about all ICHRP projects.