If the Cause Fits
The world's largest international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) often develop documents detailing their criteria for selecting the local causes, clients, and movements to which they will lend support. Here are two examples: The first is from Human Rights Watch (HRW), a New York-based organization founded in 1978 and dedicated to "protecting the human rights of people around the world," and the second is from the Sierra Club, a San Francisco-based environmental group with some 700,000 members worldwide and founded in 1892.
Excerpt From Human Rights Watch's World Report 2001
Excerpt From Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2001
The failure to include a particular country or issue often reflects no more than staffing limitations and should not be taken as commentary on the significance of the problem. There are many serious human rights violations that Human Rights Watch simply lacks the capacity to address. Other factors affecting the focus of our work… include the severity of abuses, access to the country and the availability of information about it, the susceptibility of abusive forces to outside influence, the importance of addressing certain thematic concerns, and the need to maintain a balance in the work of Human Rights Watch across various political divides.
"General Sierra Club Criteria for Involvement in Human Rights Cases"
(A high-level Sierra Club staffer described this document as an "informal… starting point [including] some of the factors we weigh.")
The Sierra Club’s Human Rights and the Environment Campaign is particularly interested in protecting the fundamental civil liberties of individuals worldwide who wish to advocate nonviolently for environmental protection. Such liberties are more closely related to our mandate as a grassroots environmental organization. The kinds of rights that are most involved with providing these critical assurances are those: guaranteeing rights of political participation; guaranteeing personal security; and guaranteeing personal autonomy (e.g., freedom to speak, organize, etc.)
The Sierra Club prefers to confine its involvement in the human rights area to pursuing civil and political rights of this sort for all people in all places who are advocates for environmental protection. We would pursue these as rights to be recognized and guaranteed under international law.
As a corollary, we would not involve ourselves in promoting — as rights under international law — "social, economic or cultural rights." While these deal with important human concerns, they lack the same character as pre-conditions for our work.
General Human Rights and the Environment Campaign Support Questions
1. Is there a local grassroots organization that we can work with? […]
2. Does this individual or community group wish our assistance?
3. Would the Sierra Club’s involvement help or harm this individual/community? Will our involvement make a positive difference?
4. Is the environmental cause in keeping with Sierra Club policy on that issue?
If the above are answered affirmatively, then …
5. Do we expect this to be a long or short term campaign? How winnable is it?
6. Will Sierra Club members be sympathetic to this issue/country/community?
7. Is there a U.S. government or corporate hook?
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