Human rights never triumph over human wrongs unless concerted demands for change are made. One of the most effective methods of orchestrating these demands is through organizations of like-minded people. A single individual may be outraged at what he/she perceives to be a horrendous abuse of human rights, but acting alone he/she is virtually powerless. But when individuals join with others in a common cause, their demands are much more likely to be heard. Since one of the purposes of the course is to study the dynamics of social change, understanding the organizational structures and tactics of these nongovernment organizations (NGOs) is essential. As Margaret Mead put it, Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
Select an activist organization that addresses human rights issues. You may select a broad-based human rights organization, such as Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch; one that focuses on the issues raised by one of the units that we are studying, such as Antislavery International or the NAACP; or one that focuses on current human rights issues, such as the death penalty, refugee crises, or torture. However, it must be a voluntary organization, NOT a government agency, and it must be devoted to some aspect of human rights. For example, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is an important organization but its goals do not fit within the parameters of this particular course. In short, make sure that the NGO focuses on one or more of the rights incorporated into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
A list of some well known organizations is provided. If you wish to select an organization that is not on that list, you MUST have instructor approval (just send an email). Please do not post an organization that has not been approved. Because everyone will be reading these papers and discussing them, please do not select an organization that has already been selected by another student. Post your topic on the discussion board provided in the Semester Paper Module only after checking to see if another student has already selected it.
Make your selection only after careful consideration. There are literally thousands of possibilities, so find one whose agenda you can support. You dont have to agree with every position taken by the group or with all of its tactics to support its overall goals.
Research the history, goals, organizational structure, leadership, tactics, successes and failures of the group. Follow its work over the course of this semester.
You may use the organizations website for much of the information needed, but you must expand your research beyond the organizations own perspective and find independent sources. Search the archives of newspapers, (i.e. New York Times, Washington Post, Dallas Morning News), NCTC library databases, journal articles, books, etc. to determine the impact of the group. If possible, interview someone involved with the organization. You may conduct the interview in person, by telephone or by email. You must incorporate information from at least three sources in addition to the website or the organization’s own publications.
Make your selection early in the semester and follow the work of the organization throughout the semester. Internet resources make it possible to maintain contact across the state, nation, and world and to acquire instant information. Log on to the organizational website at least once a week to get a good idea of what its ongoing work involves. I’ll post weekly reminders–no need to respond to these–they are just reminders.
Write a paper explaining and evaluating the organization.
Suggested issues to address in your paper:
What is the history of the organization? When was it established? What provided the incentive for creating it? What have been the key events in its growth?
What are its organizational goals?
Why is the organization important for achieving human rights goals?
How does it relate to other human rights organizations?
How is it organized and governed? Does it have a charter or constitution? Summarize its terms.
Who are the leaders of the group and how are they selected? Does it have a governing board? Who serves? Does it have an executive officer? Who is it?
What methods does the organization employ to achieve its goals? How does it raise funds? How does it spread its message to the public?
How does it approach the media? What kind of coverage does it get from the media?
Have its leaders been covered in the media?
What are the major criticisms of the organization? Who or what groups oppose its work? Why?
What have been its most important successes and failures?
As you have followed the organization’s work during the course of the semester, what were the major issues addressed?
What are others saying about it?
All questions will not apply to all organizations, so use your own judgment.