Human Rights Institution Building in the Horn of Africa, May 1994

Human Rights Institution Building in the Horn of Africa, May 1994


Proceedings of a workshop, May 2-4, 1994, Addis Ababa

Sponsored by:
Ethiopian Congress for Democracy        The Fund for Peace
P.O BOX 7284                            823 United Nations Plaza
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia                       Suite 717
Fax: 251-1-515714                       New York, New York, USA
Tel: 251-1-121781                       Fax: 1-212-661-5904
                                        Tel: 1-212-661-5900

We would like to express our deep gratitude to Oxfam U.S.A., the National Endowment for Democracy, the Inter-Church Coordination Committee for Development Cooperation (ICCO) in the Netherlands, and Daallo Airlines in Somaliland for making this workshop possible.

We would also like to extend our sincerest thanks to the resource people: Seny Diagne, Martin Hill, Bongani Khumalo, Chris Mburu, Michael McCormack and Clement Nwankwo, who took the time from their typically overburdened schedules to contribute their considerable energy, expertise and workshop know-how.

We are indebted to you all.


The longstanding cycle of repression, war and famine in the Horn of Africa has either destroyed, or in some cases simply prevented the development of civil society. The right to freedom of association has largely, if not wholly, been denied in most of the Horn until very recently, depriving many potential activists the experience of organizing independent activities. Despite these difficult circumstances, however, a small number of groups have formed to promote democracy and human rights in the region, especially since the fall of dictators notorious for human rights abuses in Ethiopia and Somalia. These groups are embracing the Herculean task of rebuilding their societies and instilling a sensitivity to human rights in government and party officials, as well as in the population at large.

To assist these groups, The Ethiopian Congress for Democracy (ECD) and the New York-based Fund for Peace (FFP) co-sponsored a training workshop on human rights institution-building. The workshop took place May 2-4, 1994 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and was attended by human rights organizations from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Somaliland and Sudan.

The workshop brought together 21 human rights groups (27 people) from the Horn with six foreign activists who started human rights efforts under similarly difficult conditions and constraints or who were expert in a particular aspect of human rights institution-building. The resource people came from Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Kenya, Guyana and the United Kingdom. The human rights organizations from the region ranged from those focusing on the documentation of human rights abuses and human rights education to those concerned with women's rights, the rights of youth and humanitarian rights. The working language of the workshop was English.

The purpose of the workshop was to explore organization-building issues that arise in the initial stages of launching human rights groups, and to foster the development of some skills in dealing with those issues. Specifically, the objectives of the workshop were: 1) to provide a forum for human rights activists in the Horn of Africa to network; and 2) to begin the process of strengthening the institutional capacity of human rights NGOs in the Horn by a) sharing experiences and learning from each other's successes and failures; and b) generating new ideas as a group. The three-day workshop was divided into three general topics: mandate; strategies; and organization. Workshop sessions included discussion and participatory exercises on such topics as choosing, defining and limiting a mandate; documentation; campaign and coalition-building; resource generation; and the various components of organizational health including concepts of leadership, credibility, accountability, transparency, planning and the need for evaluation.

The agenda was necessarily broad, given the limited amount of time allotted for a discussion of issues that might each have merited a several-day workshop. However, funding constraints and the necessity of assessing the specific organizational needs of the groups in attendance led the organizers to conceive of this first human rights institution-building workshop as a kind of overview experience. The intent was that it would be followed up by more detailed, targeted workshops once priorities for further training were established by the participants.

The resource people played an extremely important role in the workshopping process. All but a few sessions were led by resource people, and they facilitated all discussions. We decided to avoid formal presentations on their respective experiences, in the hopes that their expertise would more naturally emerge in the course of relevant discussions. (In retrospect, this may have been a mistake; during the evaluation session which came at the end of the workshop most participants expressed a desire for a more structured presentation from the resource people .)

The key achievements of the workshop were the meeting, for the first time, of human rights groups throughout the region; the raising of important organization-building issues that often are overlooked or inadequately addressed in the early stages of a human rights organization's life; and the provision of an extensive array of written materials on institution-building, human rights strategies and techniques and human rights education. Specifically, each country group received a "mini-library" of human rights materials, which, in addition to the aforementioned materials, also included essential human rights documents, bibliographies, contact lists, and information on some of the work being done by human rights groups outside of the Horn of Africa. Each participant received additional handouts in their briefing books on starting an organization; leadership; grant proposal writing; foundations that fund human rights work; coalition-building; and evaluation techniques.

What follows is a report on the proceedings of the workshop, including a description of the participatory exercises, presentations and discussions. In many instances, discussions started during the official workshop hours overflowed into the breaks, lunches and dinners. Although a number of these discussions were as lively as the proceedings themselves, we have avoided including most of this material in the report, simply because all the participants were not present. However, in a few instances where the observations made after hours directly related to specific presentations made during the course of the actual proceedings, we felt that it could benefit the participants, as well as others who may read this report, to include them.


The workshop was opened by Abraham Abebe, President of the Ethiopian Congress for Democracy, who welcomed the participants and observed that they were united by their desire to see humanism take root in the Horn of Africa. What is missing in this age of technology, he noted, is feeling--feeling about people whose lives have been wasted in prison, people left destitute because of their beliefs, people suffering from the devastating effects of war. We in the Horn, he continued, cannot be proud of the human rights records of our governments. No person in authority feels comfortable with human rights advocacy, so as human rights activists, we are hunted, as well as hunters. The vulnerable position of human rights activists in the region, he concluded, makes it all the more essential that participants build strong organizations to support their work.

Abebe's opening remarks were followed by an explanation of workshop procedures by Leah Leatherbee, Director of The Fund for Peace's Horn of Africa Program. Leatherbee started by pointing out that everyone in the room shared the common goal of making the human rights work that they were doing more effective. The substantive work, however, had institutional implications. In order to carry out the important objectives of promoting and protecting human rights, more than knowledgeable and committed people were needed. Infrastructures to support participants' work, and allow them to sustain and expand it were also critical. The workshop was therefore designed to look at the components of effective organization-building.

Leatherbee told participants that over the three-days of the workshop, they would be working in large and small groups, and that their learning vehicles would be simulations, participatory exercises and observations from those in the group with particular expertise. The workshop was meant to be a forum for learning. Although the resource people had rich experience in working in and with human rights organizations, the participants' themselves were the strongest experts on the work that they did, and the learning would come from their own experience and wisdom. Leatherbee encouraged participants to be as open as possible about the obstacles that they have faced so that others could learn from their problems, as well as their successes, and stressed that respecting confidentiality would help create a safe environment for this type of exchange.

Participants then introduced themselves and moved into the first participatory exercise: The Frame Game. The Frame Game was meant both to break the ice and to establish some group priorities that would provide a context for the rest of the workshop's proceedings. Each participant was given three index cards and asked to write down on each card a challenge, problem or concern pertaining to their work in the field of human rights. The challenge need not relate specifically to the subject of the workshop--human rights institution-building--it could be anything so long as it affected participants' ability to carry out their human rights agenda. A facilitator then collected all the cards, shuffled them, and redistributed them to all the participants so that each one received the three challenges or concerns of another.

Participants were then asked to get up out of their chairs, and walk around, conferring with each other and exchanging cards until they each had three cards that were important to them. During this phase of the exercise, participants met each other, often for the first time, and got acquainted with each other's challenges and priorities. Next, participants were divided into small groups of about 6 each and given flip chart paper. The task was to examine the cards within the small group, and build consensus on three priority challenges which the group would then write up on the flip chart paper. Each small group was then asked to report to a plenary session the three challenges they had selected and why they chose them.

The first small group identified as its three main challenges the shortage of attention to: women's rights; institutional capacity building; and financial support. The next group cited three categories of problems. The first category related to the "government factor", which included the absence of a proper legal and institutional framework supportive of human rights activities, and the problem of governmentally-imposed obstacles. The second category came under the heading of "organizational factors", and these included concern about the paucity of financial resources; the problem of undertrained, inexperienced and overloaded staff; the lack of accurate and credible information on human rights conditions; and the lack of networking and coordination between different human rights NGOs. Finally, Group Two referred to the "social factor": the lack of awareness, even apathy, on the part of the general public; and the problem of bridging cultural and generational gaps.

The third group shared Group Two's concern about mass apathy and lack of awareness about the role of NGO work, as well as the problem of government interference and harassment. In addition, Group Three cited the challenges posed by what it called the problem of inaccessibility--lack of access on the part of human rights NGOs to the media, other human rights groups, the government, etc. Group Four's findings mirrored Group One's concerns about women's rights and fundraising. It added the challenge of educating all sectors of society, but particularly the judiciary, public officers and civic organizations, about human rights. Finally, Group Five echoed other groups' concerns about fundraising and the shortage of organizational and substantive human rights training, and added the third challenge of overcoming discrimination on the basis of culture, religion and gender.

In a plenary session, participants then studied the smaller group priorities, and arrived at a consensus of five groupings of problems or challenges facing workshop participants as a whole. These were:

1. Lack of organizational and substantive human rights training;

2. Absence of enabling political and legal environments;

3. Communication barriers--including those imposed by geography, culture and gender. Such barriers were said to create a "trust vacuum" and impede essential networking;

4. Absence of a vibrant civil society;

5. Discrimination against women.

The Frame Game exercise took about 1 and 1/2 hours to complete. At the end of the session, participants had a better sense of what was important to their colleagues and what problems or challenges they faced in common. The Game was intended to begin to create some group cohesion, as well as to give the organizers and resource people some sense of the context in which groups were trying to build their institutions.

The Game was followed by a brief overview presentation of the workshop topics by Seny Diagne, founder and member of Women in Law and Development in Senegal. Diagne began by saying that in the earliest stage of an organization's life, institution-building had three broad components: mandate, strategy and organization. Choosing a mandate was the first phase of planning a human rights group. Mandate answered the question: what does the organization want to do; what are its objectives? She cautioned that the mandate must be defined very clearly and the objectives must be realistic in view of the new organization's potential human and financial resources. To determine a clear mandate, an organization had to ask itself the questions: what, how, when, where and with whom.

Once these questions were resolved, individuals establishing a human rights group could move to the second phase of planning: strategies for accomplishing their mandate. This was the stage at which the concrete methods and activities of the organization would be determined. To sustain these activities, a strong organizational infrastructure would have to be created. This process, the third phase of planning, involved answering questions such as how to chose members, how to motivate them, and what kind of leadership would be necessary to achieve the organization's objectives. All three components then, though inter-related, involved distinct planning processes. The purpose of the workshop was to share experiences in these three areas and explore the range of potential problems and solutions in the early stages of a human rights group's development.

Following Diagne's overview of the rationale for the agenda, the workshop proceeded to its first topic: mandate. The organizers introduced the topic with a participatory exercise. The group was divided into the same 5 groups of the Frame Game exercise, and each group was handed a different, fictitious country and organizational scenario. Groups were asked to read the scenarios and pretend that they were living in the political and cultural environment outlined and adopt the role of the broadly-defined organization. The groups were then asked to spend the rest of the hour creating a mandate for their group, taking into consideration the nature of the group and the local environment in which it would operate.

Since the exercise was not preceded by any discussion on mandate, the organizers provided the following questions/guidelines for the groups to consider in their deliberations:

1. Who exactly are you? (The organizers have provided you with a broad category such as educated urban-dwellers, or peasant farmers or women's group, but you should further define your attributes. Are you a group of lawyers, doctors and journalists? Are you from the same ethnic or regional backgrounds? As a group, do you speak a variety of local languages? Are you all from the same economic class? Are any of you influential? Do any of you have international contacts? How much experience, if any, do you have in doing

human rights work? Etc...) 2. Assess the skills, talents, contacts, and so on that exist among group members (You can assess your group based on the real-life attributes of each group member, or you can make up new fictitious characters)

3. Long-term objectives of the organization (ex: to raise the standard of living and stop exploitation and human rights abuses against miners)

4. Shorter-term goals (try to put these into the language of outcomes: "miners in the towns of X, Y and Z will be educated about their rights under national and international law; trained in various organizing techniques; and provided with technical, legal and logistical support for actions designed to secure their human rights...")

5. Scope of organization (for purposes of clarification, feel free to also list areas in which the organization will not be engaged)

6. What constituency/ies will the group serve?

7. Are there members of these constituencies involved in the mandate-setting and early planning phase of the organizing effort?

8. Is the mandate realistic given the human and material resources at your disposal?

9. Is the mandate realistic given the political and social environment?

10. Does the mandate provide for the likelihood of at least some early successes? (Early successes are important for building the organization's credibility and fundability)

11. How will you establish credibility?

12. Will you be a partisan or non-partisan human rights group?

Groups were also told that they should feel free to add further details to the country scenario if they wished. Once the exercise was complete, the small groups were asked to report on their deliberations to the plenary:

Group A

Group A's country and organizational scenarios were the following:

The government is ambivalent about democracy and human rights. Country A is extremely poor with no tradition of democracy. The government is torn between the conflict it perceives between establishing the public order necessary to bring about desperately-needed development on the one hand, and its desire for human rights on the other. It is convinced that if permitted to carry out its vision of development, human rights will naturally follow.

The legacy of years of dictatorship and economic devastation have resulted in a public that is largely distrustful of any effort--either by government or by anyone outside of government--to organize or mobilize them.

The government makes regular use of human rights rhetoric, however, and public statements assure the citizens of its desire to bring its own laws and practices into accordance with international standards of human rights. Government actions show, however, that it is not willing to risk stability for a near-perfect human rights record. In the name of maintaining law, order and ethnic harmony, the government continually demonstrates its ambivalence by committing small-scale human rights infractions. Human rights activists risk harassment, but not their lives. New laws seem to uphold human rights, but on closer inspection leave loop-holes for restricting rights. Other laws are purposely vague. Human rights groups are allowed to operate but have difficulty in getting legally registered.

Group A is a rural-based organization of peasant farmers who wish to organize their communities to take action on human rights issues of direct concern to them.

Group A informed the plenary that their organization was composed of rural, peasant farmers from two ethnic groups which spoke two different languages but understood each other. Their group included both men and women. The long-term objectives of the organization were to educate peasants about human rights and raise their living standards. The group had identified a number of laws that inhibited the progress of peasant empowerment, and planned to enlist the pro bono assistance of a law firm to assist them in overturning bad laws. Though the members launching the group did not have prior experience in doing human rights work, they would seek training from members of the business and legal communities, and hope to involve them in their activities, perhaps even as board members. Members of the group would in turn train others in the community to create a multiplier effect. This would also ensure that leadership remained in the community so that maximum trust between the organization and the constituency it was meant to serve could be achieved. The group would, however, look outside the community for national personalities who could promote their work. To establish credibility, the group would be non-partisan and chose a diverse board of directors. The group's short-term success would depend on accountability.

Group B

Group B's country and organizational scenarios were the following:

After decades of one-party rule, two years ago the government agreed to schedule multi-party elections. In the relatively free and fair elections that followed, the former ruling party and three new parties all elected candidates to parliament. They then decided to form a coalition government.

Country B has little tradition of democracy, but most citizens are encouraged by the willingness of the ex-ruling party and former opposition figures to work together, at least for a while. A dark cloud on the horizon, however, is a growing five-year-old guerrilla movement that dismisses the new coalition government as merely a new facade for the old regime. The guerrillas, internationally known for their brutality against the civilian population in the part of the country they control, vow to continue the armed struggle until they have overthrown the government.

The government is torn between protecting the civil liberties that it says it believes in, and restricting those same liberties in order to protect itself against the terrorist acts that the guerrillas perpetrate every week throughout the country. The new administration is convinced that to do nothing to defend itself will open the door to far worse human rights abuses under a future regime run by the current guerrilla movement.

Group B is an urban-based organization of educated individuals who wish to empower the grassroots, as well as their peers, to take some sort of action on behalf of human rights.

Group B decided that they were a multi-ethnic, multi-disciplinary group of civic and business leaders. Assuming that there was a legal and constitutional framework in which to operate, their mandate would be to monitor human rights conditions in the country, carry out human rights education and engage in conflict resolution. The spokesperson for Group B observed that most of their discussion centered on how to restrict the mandate so that they did not fall into the trap of doing nothing because they were trying to do everything. In the short-term, the group decided to focus on conflict resolution. The group had not been able to reflect on all the guiding questions because they had spent much of the time allotted for the exercise discussing what they would do if their activities were cut off by the rebels.

Group C

Group C's country and organizational scenarios were the following:

Country C is racked by a three-year-old civil war. The 15-year-old government is repressive and brutal. Extra-judicial executions, torture and scorched earth policies are common tactics of the regime in its efforts to stifle the insurgency. No dissent (or even activity that could be misinterpreted as dissent) is permitted. Many independent figures have been killed or jailed in periodic purges over the years, or have fled into exile.

The country has been economically devastated by the war and by irresponsible government policies. Many people are malnourished and intimidated. Most people are afraid to try to improve their condition through any kind of individual or collective action. Desperation, however, occasionally motivates people to demonstrate on economic issues.

Although in a very dark period now, Country C has experienced several periods of democracy in the past. During those periods, institutions of civil society flourished. Small clusters of people formerly associated with these now-banned institutions are willing to take some risks to do human rights work clandestinely.

Group C is a network of people willing to take some risks to do human rights work clandestinely.

Group C altered the group scenario it was given by deciding to be a group operating in exile, rather than clandestinely within Country C. Members chose to be a group of professionals composed of lawyers--one of whom was very famous--two trade union members, one doctor, one women's rights activist and one engineer. Members lived in foreign countries and had contacts with underground organizations in country C, including a number of the former professional associations and trade unions. Members also had important international contacts, such as the International Bar Association. Group C's long-term objective would be to monitor and expose human rights violations. Short-term objectives would include: alleviating the suffering of individuals and groups victimized by government oppression; working to stop torture and secure the release of prisoners of conscience; and applying pressure on the government to hold fair trials.

Because Group C's membership would be small at the outset, activities would initially be restricted to documentation of violations and passing this information to regional and international institutions such as the OAU and the UN. The group's constituency would be human rights abuse victims and oppressed communities, and some of their members would have been victims of human rights violations. Group C felt that their mandate was realistic because it was easy to obtain documentation on abuses in country C and publish the information. Early successes were also feasible because the information was accessible and the organization's members had good contacts with the international organizations they hoped would utilize the information. Credibility, Group C concluded, would naturally flow from the organization's non-partisan, independent nature, and from the accuracy of the documentation.

Group D

Group D's country and organizational scenarios were the following:

Country D is emerging from a very dark era of war, dictatorship and severe underdevelopment. The new government of country D is run by rebels which overthrew the previous brutal dictatorship. The attitude of the present government toward human rights has not been clearly articulated, and as yet, no challenges have been posed to test the new government's human rights inclinations.

Except one: despite the fact that the rebels were heavily dependent on women fighters during the war, their early appointments do not reflect a confidence that women are equally capable in the political arena. In this extremely traditional society, women are still largely expected to serve their husbands and perform low status and unpaid work in the home and fields.

Meanwhile, in the absence of a police state, criminal behavior and ethnic tensions that had no opportunity for expression under the iron rule of the previous regime are beginning to assert themselves. Accusations concerning who was responsible for the previous decade of authoritarian rule and widespread human rights abuses are being leveled by certain groups against others--often along ethnic fault lines. Public calls for "quick" justice for the allegedly guilty is resulting in a witch-hunt mentality. There is talk of a new penal code and constitution, but official drafting committees have yet to be appointed.

At the same time, public expectations of this new government are very high. Since the vast majority of citizens of Country D had been living in conditions of fear and extreme deprivation, they are looking forward to things changing for the better--quickly.

Group D is an organization wishing to raise the status of women and promote women's human rights.

Group D had trouble allocating sufficient time to the question of mandate because a significant portion of time was spent debating the premise--namely that it was appropriate to separate and promote women's rights. The group also had trouble agreeing on the nature and scope of the mandate. Eventually, however, the group decided to constitute itself as an organization of women ex-fighters who were disappointed because the competence exhibited and the sacrifices made by women during the war were not recognized by the government--no posts were given to women and no discriminatory laws were changed.

Broadly-defined, Group D's mandate in the post-liberation era would be to raise the status of women. The group's short-term objective would be to conduct women's rights education to raise the awareness of women about the gap between their current status and the equality to which they were entitled as human beings. The longer-term objective would be to mobilize this awareness into a campaign that would ensure that full women's rights were incorporated into the new constitution. In advancing this mandate, Group D felt that it was very important to create channels between urban and rural women and to use traditional structures and personal contacts to develop trust among its various constituencies. Finally, Group D announced that it was a non-partisan human rights organization, and pledged to demonstrate this by avoiding the use of government facilities, excluding from the board and staff any executive members of political parties, etc.

Group E

Group E's country and organizational scenarios were the following:

Country E is a young democracy. A rebel movement successfully overthrew the previous repressive regime 4 years ago and established a broadly representative government which has already presided over national elections and allowed itself to be replaced.

Country E is poor and its people are working hard to rebuild after decades of war and economic and political exploitation. Although many problems persist, the government is trusted by the people. There is an atmosphere of openness and optimism. Groups of all sorts are permitted to form and operate. Already, an active relief and development community has been established.

In this newly democratic atmosphere, women are also organizing. Although the current government is sympathetic to their demands for programs that will raise their status, and supportive of their efforts to start self-help and income generation programs, it has no resources at its disposal to help them. Women organizers in Country E are also hindered by traditions which make women second class citizens and unfit to govern in the eyes of both men and women. Yet the reality is: women work longer hours than men and are forced to endure greater hardships. Democratic traditions deeply lodged in the cultures of the various ethnic groups have never been extended to women.

Group E is a group of women determined to raise the status, as well as the standard of living, of women in Country E.

Group E identified itself as an organization of urban, educated women, including lawyers and educators. The group stressed, however, that though the organization was being established by these women, it would be open to women from all sectors of society. The organization would be national in focus and its activities would span the entire country. Group E spent a lot of time debating long vs. short-term objectives, but ultimately agreed that women's economic worth had to be improved before their political and social status could be elevated. Accordingly, their objectives were to encourage the education and training of women in the professional, formal and vocational arenas; to campaign through the mass media and other channels for the inclusion of a women's rights agenda in school curricula; to encourage income generation projects and raise money for women-generated economic activities; to work for the inclusion and promotion of women in public and private sector jobs; and to provide free legal assistance and engage in litigation on behalf of women.


After the small group presentations, participants were invited to comment on each other's mandates. The first observation was that Group A's mandate was too broad. Representatives of Group A responded by saying that they had recognized the importance of networking with other human rights groups, and that they would seek strong relationships with such groups so that human rights concerns brought to them that did not fall directly within the scope of their activities could be channeled to others. They felt, however, that their mandate had to be broad in order to establish credibility with their constituency--disempowered farmers. Other participants felt that despite the urgency of demonstrating to farmers the understanding that a comprehensive approach to their problems was necessary, it would still be important to define specific, short-term objectives. One of the resource people said that in his opinion, all the groups' mandates were too broad. Even Group E, which had a very specifically-defined mandate, was probably taking on much more work than was realistic to assume a new organization could coordinate.

These initial comments led to a general discussion of broad vs. narrow mandates. Several participants pointed out that if a group's mandate is too broad, funders and others may conclude that the group is being unrealistic and will not be effective. The nature of the mandate will be the first indication to the outside world of the new group's credibility, which one person pointed out is very difficult to establish, but quite easy to lose. One resource person attributed the success of Amnesty International to the narrowness of its mandate, although he noted that Amnesty has also been roundly criticized for its narrow approach. Success, he emphasized, results from strict observance of a specific, clearly defined, manageable mandate. When an organization tries to do 20 things at once, it tends to do none of them well, especially when it is inexperienced and in the early stages of development. He cited the example of Amnesty International's successful year-long campaign on disappearances in which all the organization's resources were devoted to one objective.

Other participants felt strongly that there were advantages to having a broad mandate. One noted that organizations and their mandates form in response to a need, and in the Horn of Africa, the need is very great because there is so little tradition of democracy. Working on the international level, he pointed out, is very different from working on the local level, and what applies to Amnesty International may not be relevant to a local group. Furthermore, there may be only one human rights organization in an entire country. In such a case, it may make more sense to define the mandate broadly, take advantage of the expertise of, for example, trade union or political movements which have organizing experience, and then expect that some members of the group will break off and form their own, more specialized groups. This had happened in the case of a Sudanese human rights group; some members had left the original, broadly-defined organization and formed their own, specifically focused on torture.

Several other participants seconded this view by observing that circumstances should determine whether a broad or narrow mandate made sense. Amnesty International worked on many countries, so it was necessary for it to have a specifically defined agenda. But the local groups assembled for the workshop worked on one country, so it was possible for their mandate to be broader.

One of the resource people responded by appreciating conceptually the fact that many African countries might have so few human rights organizations that it would seem important for each one to take on a larger mandate. She noted, however, that the vast need did not make the technical and organizational work of carrying out such a mandate any easier. Even if a group (like Group A) saw some advantage to defining its mandate very broadly--especially if it was the only human rights group operating in a country--if the mandate was unrealistically comprehensive, the group would nonetheless have to leave half of the mandate behind because it would simply be impossible to fulfill. This could have the negative consequence of causing the group's constituency and even its own workers to become discouraged or alienated and feel that the group was not living up to its promises. This did not mean, another resource person pointed out, that it was not important to consider the life-span of the organization at the outset. This was positive because it reflected that the organization was providing for the possibility of changed circumstances and planned to be flexible--a necessity in the Horn of Africa. Most participants agreed that mandates should leave some room for an expansion of activities, but that such expansion should occur only as an organization develops competency in the areas of its initial activity and a reputation for being credible. Therefore, a mandate that anticipated some kind of expansion in the future was desirable, but should not be so broad as to leave constituents and staff unclear or with inflated expectations about what the organization was setting out to do in the short and the long term.

One final point about the mandate exercise specific to Group A was raised. In the course of discussion, it became clear that Group A's board of directors would be primarily comprised of professionals. One participant feared that it was unrealistic that a group of peasant farmers would be able to assemble such a board, considering the usual isolation in the countries of the Horn between peasants and professionals. He also felt that an organization of peasant farmers, directed by a professional board, might lose touch with the day to day realities in the community being served. He suggested that the farmers group take up a collection from their members and pay for professional services instead.


Fact-finding and documentation

The morning session of the second day opened with three presentations by resource people on the topic of fact-finding and documentation. Martin Hill, the head of the East Africa Research Department at Amnesty International in London, introduced the topic. In order to do responsible fact-finding, he began, a researcher had not only to understand the specific incident or issue being investigated, but also the overall context in which it was occurring. Documentation, therefore, had three stages--fact-finding, analysis, and presentation--and could take a long time.

To produce thorough and credible documentation, a human rights fact-finder would start by familiarizing him or herself with the general political context surrounding the "facts" in question. In other words, a researcher had to be knowledgeable about political groups and dynamics. If the fact-finder was investigating crimes against people, s/he would have to know the laws of the country and international human rights law. The political and legal environment in which abuses were taking place would inform the analysis of the facts. Sometimes, he noted, it was necessary to "work backwards" in that a human rights group's presentation would determine what documentation and analysis was needed. If a group wished, for example, to make a submission to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, the process of documentation and analysis might be different than if the presentation was aimed at local or international press.

Hill observed that fact-finding itself had three components: sources; methods; and principles. Beginning with sources, he asked participants for input on which sources might be most appropriate for investigating a case of torture. Participants named victims; victims' families; other prisoners incarcerated with victims; prison guards who, for a bribe, might be willing to divulge information about what happened to victims; doctors who might have examined victims; witnesses (who might even be torturers proud of their role in carrying out state security); human rights organizations; political parties; and the media. Some discussion followed on the additional caution that should be exerted when relying for information on political parties and the media, which in some cases were biased.

Methods of documentation ranged from passive to active. A researcher might simply wait for people to come to him or her with information regarding a specific abuse; or the researcher could actively pursue the information by conducting an interview or human rights mission. Fact-finding could be structured by a questionnaire, or be "free wheeling".

Finally, Hill addressed the following principles of documentation:

1. Accuracy: In striving for accuracy, a fact-finder should set high standards of evidence; be critical of him or herself; and always seek information from "the other side";

2. Mistakes: If a researcher generated information which was later found to be incorrect, the mistake should be immediately admitted;

3. Verification: Any information that came from an opposition political party, for example, would have to be treated with great care because of the interest that party might have in inventing or exaggerating abuses;

4. Wide range of sources: A researcher should not accept as gospel what the first person s/he interviewed told him/her. Nor should a researcher accept the account of only one group;

5. Confidentiality: A fact-finder should minimize the risks taken by sources to convey information by keeping their identity confidential unless sources wished to go on public record;

6. Security: Not only the identity of the source, but also the information itself--in its raw data form--should be kept in a secure place to which only the most trusted individuals had access. This was important for protecting the victims, the sources, and the fact-finder him or herself. This meant that files should be kept locked; identification cards should be issued to all persons with authorization to be in the vicinity of the files; and staff recruited should be politically independent and discrete;

7. Sensitivity: Sensitivity to the victim's feelings and possible reactions to being interviewed were essential. Some victims might experience an insensitively conducted interview as reminiscent of an interrogation by security forces which was accompanied by torture. Fact-finders should be careful of the tone and language they used, and be sure to convey to the victim that they were doing something useful by providing what was understood to be very painful information.

Hill's remarks were followed by an additional presentation on documentation by resource person Mike McCormack, co-president of the Guyana Human Rights Association. McCormack started by saying that he wanted to complement Hill's presentation by adding the perspective of a local group with many demands on its limited resources. Why do we document? he asked. Because information is power. Governments are concerned about the truth, so NGOs are powerful when they possess the truth. McCormack noted that the Guyana Human Rights Association received many visits from people with a whole range of problems, some of which the Association was not equipped or mandated to handle. When the Association did decide that a problem fell within their area of expertise and it decided to intervene, the first thing it would do was verify the facts.

It was important however, to gather only the facts relating to the particular cases or issues a human rights group decided to take up according to its mandate. Especially if the group was the only human rights organization in the country, it would find that it received a much broader spectrum of information than it could possibly act on. Such an organization might want to store such information, but it should only systematically verify information relating to its organizational priorities.

Once the facts were verified and perhaps additional information collected, McCormack continued, the organization would have to decide what to do with it. Some potential uses for the information he noted included:

1. Informing people about the extent and nature of the problem;

2. Stimulating a national community to challenge the government on the problem;

3. Stimulating action on the part of the international community.

Local groups, McCormack warned, often paid too little attention to what could be done with the information once it was collected. Who would read the report on the violation? One possible target of local group information would be the United Nations or regional human rights bodies. But from the local perspective, McCormack had found that it was often difficult to deal with these technical and complicated international bodies. Local groups often lacked the resources or the time to monitor the UN system, figure out who to lobby, etc. The Guyana Human Rights Association had found that the international NGOs dealt with these bodies more effectively on its behalf. He recommended, therefore, that participants find out which international NGOs were interested in human rights issues in the Horn of Africa, and feed them the locally compiled documentation. The other benefit to securing the assistance of international NGOs lay in their often superior ability to influence the policy of countries which in turn had influence with the country of the local group. International NGOs were frequently also in a better position to put pressure on the national government in question by threatening to embarrass it in the international community on account of a poor human rights record.

On the national front, local groups should not overlook the potential influence of churches, trade unions, development groups and other important sectors of society that operated on a national level. According to McCormack, more time should be devoted to briefing these actors about the causes of local groups and enlisting their support. In addition, these entities should be encouraged to relay any information they possessed concerning the particular causes or issues promoted by the local groups recruiting them.

McCormack then moved on to the importance of how reports are written. Often, he noted, groups wish to convey in the report their indignation over the abuses cited. McCormack felt that this was unwise, however, because it left no room for the reader to get indignant on his/her own. He therefore recommended avoiding adjectives in descriptions of abuses (e.g. the fascist, dictatorial military regime committed heinous acts of cruelty against the defenseless and innocent citizens of...). Usually, he noted, the information was sufficiently powerful to speak for itself.

Finally, McCormack talked about what types of people made the best fact-finders. In his experience, social workers were preferable to lawyers or academics because they were better interviewers. Often, victims or others being interviewed might exaggerate their stories to ensure that the fact-finder understood the severity of the situation. McCormack had found that social workers were excellent at cutting through the exaggeration and getting to the real story. They were also more adept than other professionals at recognizing completely fabricated stories.

Resource person Clement Nwankwo, Executive Director of the Constitutional Rights Project (CRP) in Nigeria, also made remarks on fact-finding from the perspective of a local group. Nwankwo stressed the importance of scheduling a human rights report's release for a time when the topic of the report has some currency. The Constitutional Rights Project had chosen, for example, to do reports documenting abuses by the police and infringements on freedom of the press because police brutality was widespread and an issue of public concern, and media outlets had been closed down and many journalists had been arrested. Nigeria was also ripe for such reports because Nigerians openly provided information relating to human rights abuses and Nigeria's extensive and sophisticated media was willing to carry human rights stories.

Nwankwo also offered some insight into CRP's methodologies. CRP verified the facts by going to the scene of the incident. In its reports, CRP reinforced its credibility by explaining how the information was collected. In collecting the information, he continued, CRP made every attempt to be objective, which included conducting interviews with the violating parties to get their side of the story, as well as their response to the allegations. Sometimes, he admitted, these parties were not willing to talk to a human rights group, but in such a case, it was useful to say that the attempt was made and stonewalled.

At the release of a report on human rights, Nwankwo told participants, the CRP held a press conference to which it invited the offending parties cited in the report. These parties were usually provided with an advance copy of the report so that they could prepare themselves to respond at the press conference. Giving an advance copy, Nwankwo noted, could be risky because the government might try to stop the press conference, confiscate the reports, etc. Usually, CRP handled this problem by removing all copies of the reports in question from the office and storing them in a secret place until it was clear that the authorities had no intentions of interfering with the distribution of the report.

Nwankwo also observed that the media did not always show up at CRP's press conferences, nor would members of the press always find the time to read a 200 page report. Therefore, CRP's policy was to write a two page summary of each report to facilitate press coverage. In order to get any attention from the media, however, it was important to spend some time cultivating relationships with appropriate media personnel. To this end, CRP had sought to involve the media in the work of the organization. Currently, CRP had two editors and one board member from the media community. These recruits were helpful in advising the CRP on who within the media to contact on various human rights issues.


Participants were asked to share a little about their own experience in documenting abuses in their countries. A representative of a Djiboutian human rights organization volunteered that her organization engaged in documentation and targeted the information about abuses to newspapers, radio and international human rights NGOs. She stated that her group published very detailed lists of political prisoners, for example, which included the name of the victim, date of arrest, circumstances of arrest, and any other information that could be obtained given the extremely hostile government attitude toward human rights groups in general, and documentation in particular.

A Sudanese participant involved with several human rights organizations in exile noted that their job was very difficult because the government of Sudan was violating every single article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Such levels of abuse created an overwhelming amount of information for the few human rights groups in exile to handle. Nevertheless, Sudanese exile groups were issuing regular press releases and reports on human rights abuses, as well as, in the case of the Sudan Human Rights Organization, producing a monthly newsletter. In addition to monitoring, these groups also launched campaigns on behalf of victims, issued emergency alerts, and some also lobbied foreign governments, NGOs and international human rights bodies.

He talked briefly about the Sudanese groups' sources of information which, at first, were difficult to cultivate. Sudanese groups, however, had been able to create a network of informants inside Sudan to provide the exile groups with information. Sudanese activists now systematically interviewed victims who either escaped or were allowed to leave their country. Activists in exile had also developed a world-wide network of other exiles who had their own ways of getting information from inside Sudan. Human rights data was collected both actively and passively. One of the more established human rights groups had developed an extensive mailing list which included separate categories for press and those to whom urgent appeals would be addressed. Their most difficult problem was getting information on human rights conditions in the western and southern parts of the country where large scale abuses were taking place but little access was permitted--allegedly because of rebel activity.

A participant engaged in monitoring abuses in Ethiopia stated that his group collected information primarily from victims and their families and colleagues, and that it was covering all parts of the country. A participant from Somalia noted that the situation in her country was quite different from the other countries represented. Most of the political parties in Somalia were rooted in the clan system which was used to repress people. The latest conflict, she observed, stemmed from the conflict between the UN and Aideed's clan. Many of the clan leaders fomenting the conflict had secured their families' safety overseas while they wreaked havoc on the rest of Somalia. Although there were no groups expressly calling themselves human rights organizations, NGOs operating inside the country were reporting on clan-based violations of human rights. A participant from Somaliland noted that few groups were documenting abuses in their country--the only one that came to mind was the London-based Africa Rights. Many of those working in NGOs, however, were interested in exploring the possibility of adding a human rights monitoring component to the humanitarian work they were already doing.

Another participant asked how human rights groups in the early stages of development could secure the confidence and trust of witnesses and victims before they had established a good reputation in the field. Most of the more experienced participants responded that this was usually not a problem, especially when the human rights community in a given country was very small, because reputations in such circumstances were established very quickly. Applying the principles of fact-finding laid out by Martin Hill, however, particular sensitivity in interviewing, confidentiality and security, would go a long way toward making interviewees more comfortable.

Finally, a resource person raised the issue of how to handle violations committed by a previous regime, which he thought might be relevant to the countries of the Horn. The most important objective, he offered, was to establish the truth of what happened, regardless of how this information might later be used. Once the nature and extent of abuses under a former regime was established, prosecutions, amnesty or some combination of the two could be contemplated. He stressed, however, the importance of creating an accurate record of what happened no matter what course of action a new government ultimately chose to take. Dealing with a past regime's record of human rights violations had the added benefit of testing how the new government intended to treat human rights in general, and the human rights community in particular. In compiling the record, he added, it was important that all the human rights groups within the country in question cooperate, regardless of whether or not they were engaged in monitoring.

Reaching out to grassroots communities

The session on documentation was followed by an exercise designed to generate discussion on how primarily urban-based groups run by professional people could reach out to rural and grassroots communities. Again, participants were divided into smaller groups and asked to examine and discuss the following case study:

The chairperson of the Lulu group read in the local newspaper that children in Kwali village in Yala District were dying of measles because there was no clinic to provide immunizations and treatment. During the next meeting of the Lulu group, she brought this to the attention of the group.

The group discussed the matter and decided to raise funds in order to buy drugs, hire a nurse, and set up a clinic in Kwali village.

The group went to the village with the mobile clinic. They informed the members of the community that the clinic would be open between 8:00 AM and midday everyday. They did this using posters and by announcing the plan through a loudspeaker.

After one week, they were surprised that only a handful of women had brought their children to the clinic for treatment or immunization.

The small groups were asked to assess why the Lulu failed in their laudable effort to help the people of Kwali village, and what could have been done differently to ensure that the children received immunizations and treatment. After one half hour, the small groups were asked to report out to the plenary. All four groups came to the same basic conclusions about why the Lulu group failed:

1. The Lulu group did not visit the village to verify the problem prior to establishing a plan to solve it;

2. The Lulu group did not establish initial contact and relationships with the community or with local leaders, whose involvement in planning and implementing the immunization and treatment program should have been seen as crucial to its success. Had community leaders been involved in the planning process, the Lulu group would have been informed that between the hours of 8:00 AM and 12:00 PM, women were working, and could not take the time to bring their children to a clinic;

3. The Lulu group did not educate the community about the causes of the problem or the benefits of the solution prior to implementation;

4. The Lulu group did not offer incentives, such as candy, to lure the children to the clinic for treatment.

The small groups also speculated that the Lulu group may have been from a rival village, making their services suspect, and that because the nurse was not from Kwali, the women did not trust him or her with their children. The groups further postulated that many residents of Kwali were not able to read the posters announcing the campaign to eradicate measles. In addition to involving the local community in the planning and implementation of any future program, one group suggested that a small local committee be charged with advertising the project by using role plays and songs. It also suggested that this committee, working with the Lulu group, explore ways to improve other health problems to build the credibility of the joint enterprise.

Resource person Seny Diagne, who facilitated the exercise, made several observations before opening the floor for a general discussion. First, she pointed out that the case study had focused on the problem of disease and the solution of treatment and immunization, a solution that would benefit all people. This choice was made intentionally so that participants could see how easily the implementation of even the simplest program to combat the most uncontroversial problem could go painfully awry, with the attendant and tragic waste of human and financial resources. She also reinforced the small groups' observation that education could have made a crucial difference, noting that there was nothing to suggest that the village of Kwali was conscious that local medicines and rituals could not eradicate measles. Finally, Diagne emphasized the importance of a participatory method of implementation and free flow of information between the Lulu group and the community.


The first question posed concerned what course of action to take when a group approaches local leaders and they refuse to work with it. Another participant pointed out that sometimes villagers may be deeply suspicious of outsiders because they tend to be tax collectors or play other roles that villagers regard as detrimental to their well-being. An Eritrean participant volunteered that in her experience, it was not always necessary to go through the elders. Often, there was one old woman or man who everyone in the village respected. The key was to gain the confidence and support of that one person who could then open many other necessary doors. A Somali participant pointed out that in her society, which was largely nomadic, there was not the same kind of division between urban and rural communities. Therefore, in such societies, it would almost always be possible to find someone in town to act as a liaison to his or her extended family which might at that moment be in a rural area.

Another participant noted that local leaders were not always exclusively concerned with the welfare of their communities. Sometimes, they would resist helping an outside group unless it was immediately clear how it would benefit them personally. It would be necessary, therefore, to develop incentives for leaders as well as for the intended beneficiaries of any given program. One of the Somali participants also raised the problem of clan divisions within a village. She cautioned that in villages where three clans coexisted, approaching the leaders of one clan would alienate leaders of the other two. In such a case, it would be necessary to develop a program that would attract all three clans, rather than approaching the leadership of one or all separately.

Another problem associated with approaching community leaders identified by the group was that of corruption. The group's use of the community's leadership as an entry point could be counterproductive in instances where being identified with corrupt leaders risked alienating villagers. This point was followed by the observation that a distinction needed to be made between "local authorities" and leaders recognized by the community. South African resource person Bongani Khumalo shared an experience that the Community Law Center in Durban had had which illustrated this distinction. On occasion, he said, the CLC had been prevented by local authorities from setting up an office in their areas. But in one case, the CLC had had the initial cooperation of the authorities and had established an office. The office was focusing on helping workers to identify the gap between what they were owed by employers and what they were actually being paid. Since the local authorities were getting a cut of the illegal profits made at the expense of workers, they became suddenly hostile to the CLC office and detained some of its members. The authorities called in the security police and asked them why they had not killed the CLC members. After additional ominous threats, the CLC decided to close the office. This local branch of the CLC was a strong one, however, and its members arranged a meeting with several highly respected community leaders to enlist their help in negotiating with the authorities to permit the safe execution of the office's activities. In ten months, as a result of community leaders' intervention with local authorities, the office was re-opened.

Other problems that were identified in reaching out to local communities included turf battles between NGOs who wanted to work in the same communities; and opportunism on the part of NGOs whose own agendas took precedence over the welfare of the alleged "beneficiaries". In short, the facilitator noted, reaching out to other communities was difficult, but not impossible. Once some kind of contact with respected members of the community had been established, it would be wise to engage in a participatory needs assessment of the village before choosing any course of action, since implementation of any program would be difficult if the community felt that the problem being addressed was not its own priority. Had the Lulu group done this, for example, it might have discovered that malnutrition was the main cause of measles, and that treating the symptom while ignoring the cause would not constitute an effective strategy for eradicating the disease. If dealing with the problem of malnutrition was outside of the Lulu group's mandate, then networking with other NGOs that might be brought in to assist in solving the problem would also be important. Once a village had received help that it valued from an outside organization, she pointed out, it would develop a consciousness that there were other possibilities for outside help that went beyond the capacity of the initial group.

Another resource person offered his experience in finding an entry point for doing human rights work in an indigenous community in Guyana. Although his group's ultimate objective was to do human rights education in the community, it realized that it had to gain the trust and respect of that community first before any training or education could be effective. This community had a desperate need for mosquito netting, which it had been unable to obtain through the government because of the low priority the authorities attached to the needs of indigenous people. Thus the Guyana Human Rights Association donated materials for women to weave into nets. The congregation of women to do the weaving provided the perfect setting for a combined program of human rights education. Now the women trusted the organization, and were receptive to its message.

Another participant reminded the group that any time a human rights organization went into a foreign community, it was important to respect all their cultural values (their religion, the way they dress, when they rest, etc.). This point led to an interesting and humorous discussion about what to do when a villager offers the hospitality of a drink of water or something to eat that one can be pretty sure is contaminated. Some people felt that as a community worker, one should be prepared to take those kind of risks and accept the hospitality offered to avoid offending the bearer. Others suggested preventive measures, such as taking medicine along on all excursions to local communities. The third and most humorous approach, for those able to think creatively on the spot, was to find a way to accept the offer without ingesting it. One participant, for example, suggested saying, "in my tribe, we pour a libation (water) on the ground before engaging in important discussions."

Language was considered to be another potential barrier in breaking the ice with other communities. In Somaliland, for example, being a poet would be helpful in gaining trust in a highly poetic, oral society. One of the resource people suggested that if the human rights worker did not speak the local language well, it would be wise to apologize, and even make fun of his or her own mistakes. It could also be helpful to ask the hosts to educate him or her, and let them know that s/he did not mind being interrupted and corrected.

Planning a Campaign

The afternoon session of the second day was devoted to the topic of planning a campaign. Workshop participants were divided into four small groups which were to represent the diverse human rights community of the fictitious country of Doveria. Each small group was formed with participants' actual organizational mandates in mind. Like-minded mandates were matched with the loosely-defined mandate of the fictitious Doverian human rights organization. Each small group was given a brief description of the type of human rights organization it was to represent and its main priority, as well as a description of the country Doveria, so that participants would know the political context in which their group was operating. The small groups were then given one hour to build a campaign on the issue identified in the description. The campaign could be local, regional or national, and groups were free to add attributes to the organizational or country descriptions if they wished. To assist the groups in their deliberations, the organizers provided the following list of guiding questions:

         1.   What are the objectives of this campaign?
         2.   Who does the group  want to reach (primary targets of campaign)?
         3.   How long should the campaign last?
         4.   What kind of documentation  will be needed for the campaign?
         5.   What strategy or methodology  will be used for the campaign?
         6.   Who will be responsible for the campaign?
         7.   What costs will the campaign involve?
         8.   How will the campaign be paid for?
         9.   How will  the group  measure the  effectiveness of the campaign?
The country profile for Doveria was the following:

The country of Doveria recently emerged from a dark era of civil war and brutal dictatorship. The war, as well as political and economic mismanagement, has left the country impoverished and a generation of its people dead or disabled.

During the decade of war in Doveria, its people were singly focused on surviving, and unified in their desire to overthrow a regime which abused their rights on a massive scale. Now that the war is over, old problems are re-emerging. Without the rebel-cause to unite them, ethnic tensions are re-appearing. Women, who were instrumental to the rebellion as fighters, spies, message carriers, etc., are pressured to resume their traditional roles--serving their husbands and performing low status and unpaid work in the home and the fields.

After an hour, the small groups were asked to present their campaigns to the plenary for feedback. The first group to report out was the Doverian Human Rights Monitors (DHRM). The organizational description it was given was the following:

DHRM is an organization based in the capital city that documents abuses, whether they are committed by the government or other groups. Recently, it has been focusing on abuses committed by regional governments against members of the Rasa and Gunu ethnic groups.

Observing that racism and discrimination are at the root of the problems being experienced by the Rasa and Gunu, DHRM is planning a campaign on the rights of minorities in general.

DHRM has raised most of its money from local businesses, so it has excellent relations with the business community. Because of the adversarial way in which the government views the DHRM, relations with the government are often tense. Nonetheless, the DHRM has managed to develop a number of sympathetic mid-level government employees who occasionally leak information and provide other kinds of access.

To achieve the objective of highlighting abuses against minorities, the DHRM decided to launch a national campaign targeting the media, government, schools and community groups. The campaign's duration would be one year, and the DHRM would need documentation including photos, newspaper reports, and videos. The DHRM felt that documentation, and the thrust of the campaign in general, should include a cultural dimension, since fighting discrimination against the Rasa and Gunu ethnic groups would have to include making the public aware of what was rich and beautiful about their cultures. The DHRM's strategy was to form a committee composed of some of their members and some contacts from the outside to approach the different campaign target groups and to raise funds for the effort. Because the DHRM already had good contacts with the business community, it would try to obtain funds from this quarter. It would also approach local donors, market and sell local items, and charge entrance fees for DHRM-organized events such as concerts and dances. The effectiveness of the campaign would be measured by how responsive the target groups were.

The second group to present their campaign strategy was the Women's Rights Action Committee (WRAC). Its organizational scenario was the following:

WRAC is a relatively new organization that seeks to raise the status of women by raising women's consciousness about the variety of abuses and exploitation they suffer, and by helping women to organize to take action against such treatment. Currently, WRAC is planning a campaign called "Women are Equal Partners". WRAC is also based in the capital city. In the short time that it has been in existence, WRAC has developed excellent grassroots contacts and has done very effective press work.

The representative for WRAC informed the plenary that her organization had a mixed membership which included educated and uneducated women. Though she admitted that the Doverian government and society at large were not generally sensitive or sympathetic to women's rights, she noted that there were some personalities within government and civil society who were supportive of their cause. As an organization, WRAC's primary concern was the lack of equal opportunity for women in education, employment and in social benefits. Therefore, WRAC's campaign objective would be to raise national awareness about the plight of women in these areas.

WRAC would begin the campaign by contacting and enlisting the assistance of sympathetic prominent personalities. Then they would write petitions to the government; organize women's workshops and invite government officials to attend; and educate the general public through: the media, public debates, role plays and cultural events, peaceful demonstrations, enlisting local religious leaders to speak out; giving lectures at schools and universities, and networking with other NGOs. The campaign would be funded by contributions from WRAC's members, including the women who worked in the marketplace. The third group to present was the Relief and Development Association of Doveria (RDAD), whose group description was the following:

RDAD is the local arm of an international relief organization. It is headquartered in the capital city, but it has local offices in several rural areas where it is carrying out projects. In addition to carrying out needs assessment in the relief area and advising donor agencies on how their assistance can best be spent, RDAD provides technical assistance and funding to small farming and other cooperatives interested in starting income-generating projects. RDAD has extensive international, national and local contacts and is well funded. It also enjoys an excellent relationship with the Doverian government.

The RDAD representative started by listing the group's short and long term organizational strategies for promoting development. In the short term (1 year), RDAD would conduct a needs assessment; provide consultancy services to international and local NGOs on the identification of needs and aid delivery and management; and "work and agitate" for fair distribution of resources. The group's longer term vision (3 years) included: undertaking rehabilitation activities; developing and assisting reintegration projects; giving technical and expert assistance to the reconstruction of infrastructure; and assisting economic improvement programs and policies. RDAD saw their primary constituency as the locally displaced, de ht be to building coalitions to launch a campaign. The following advantages were offered:

1. Collective security: launching a campaign as a lone organization could be dangerous;

2. Optimal use of resources: different groups have different strengths, skills, and constituencies best maximized by a division of labor;

3. Increasing the pool of information and contacts;

4. Stronger voice: a coalition of groups all identifying the same problem and working toward the same solution would be taken more seriously by governments and the general public;

5. Geographic spread: a coalition composed of groups from different parts of the country, region, etc. could cover more territory and involve a larger constituency;

6. Funding through a central channel.

Participants were then asked to brainstorm on the disadvantages of building a coalition:

1. Credibility: a group might not want to associate with other groups that it felt could damage its credibility (such as a group with a blatantly political agenda or a group that did not have a good reputation);

2. Fundraising tensions: some groups might resent the relatively larger role they would have to play in generating funds. Other groups with superior fundraising skills might feel that this entitled them to more control over the coalition, alienating others;

3. Loss of identity: sometimes, particularly a smaller NGO could be overtaken by the force of a coalition or become so absorbed in its activities that it was unable to maintain its own unique character and methods;

4. Decision-making: with numerous players with a variety of agendas, squabbles over how decisions were made and who should make them could easily develop and paralyze the coalition.

The two factors noted by participants to account for the greatest paralysis in coalition-building were the absence of a clearly defined objective and the "human element". One participant offered an example of the kind of breakdown that could occur over the process of decision-making. A number of human rights groups in his country had decided to form a coalition to address government intransigence on a particular issue. Members of the coalition debated whether to function simply as an alliance of human rights groups cooperating on an issue of common concern or to create a formal superstructure that would handle the affairs of the coalition. Total agreement was not reached, and those members favoring the superstructure went ahead and established it without consulting the others. As a result, the other groups lost interest in participating. Then splits developed within the superstructure organization, and decision-making become the exclusive province of a small clique. The lesson in this example, he concluded, was that groups must agree at the outset on what basis they will work together and how.

It was noted that the experience of coalition-building in Guyana was similarly poor. In almost every case, one group had tried to dominate the process and disaffection had set in. In Kenya, Moi had been able to win a multi-party election despite his lack of popularity and the existence of an experienced opposition because members of the opposition found they could not work together. This was primarily a problem of ego rather than ideology; each opposition candidate felt that he was the natural leader of the coalition. In South Africa with its diverse ethnic character, coalitions headed by the leader of one ethnic group tended to alienate the others. This discussion raised the issue of what kind of leadership a coalition should strive to generate, and most participants felt that collective leadership with clearly defined, distinct roles would work best.

The example of the failed coalition in Kenya raised the issue of whether coalitions of political parties were fundamentally more problematic than NGO coalitions, since political parties often had hidden agendas and were more likely to feel competitive than cooperative with one another. Several of the resource people responded by saying that although that point was well taken, participants should not underestimate the hidden agendas and competitive nature of NGOs. Sometimes the hidden agendas of NGOs were merely less obvious than those of political parties. In addition, the effect of competition in a coalition of political parties could serve to operate as a check on the excesses of all of them. Unfortunately, this was rarely the case with NGOs. Thus, it was important when entering an NGO coalition that groups trust the motives of the other members. A resource person observed that early outside funding could spoil a coalition by creating tensions within it concerning how the money should be spent, who should control it, etc. It was often better, she noted, to begin with small contributions from the members of the coalition itself. Ultimately, however, where bigger money was involved, it might be necessary to create a superstructure to handle the funds. In the case of Senegal, women were building a coalition to prepare and coordinate activities for the upcoming preparatory meeting preceding the Beijing women's conference in 1995. Because the coalition was raising money from external sources, they needed to set up a separate bank account to hold these funds, so a superstructure was necessary. Another resource person, however, felt that any funds separately raised for a coalition--whether small or large, or from external of internal sources--ran the very real risk of creating tensions that could paralyze it. Consequently it was best to avoid fundraising altogether. In his experience, the only coalitions that worked well were ones without superstructures and money, where groups simply coordinated activity in the pursuit of a common goal.

Although there were many drawbacks and pitfalls to coalition-building, there were still many clear cases where it would be worth the effort. One participant, for example, made a clear case for the existence of a coalition in which she was participating. Her coalition was composed of the women's divisions within each of the Sudanese political parties. The problem which gave rise to the coalition was the refusal of the political parties to turn over to their women's departments money which had been earmarked for them. The women's divisions formed a coalition to increase their strength within each individual party to ensure that resources were shared in the manner in which they were intended by donors. Although the coalition remained frustrated by the continued intransigence of their political leaders, the women saw the coalition as a refuge where they could provide mutual support and strategize about how to strengthen their position. In general, there seemed to be consensus that coalitions were effective when the there was a clear need, the objectives of the coalition were narrow and shared by all its constituent members, and issues of leadership and decision-making were clearly dealt with from the very beginning. Groups considering entering a coalition should be particularly wary of "tokenism" and "window dressing". Several participants suggested that networks should be established prior to coalition-building.

                    DAY THREE: ORGANIZATION

Attributes of a healthy organization:

The third day opened with a general session on organizational health. Mike McCormack launched the topic by asking participants to brainstorm about the qualities that they normally associated with mature, healthy people. The following long list of qualities were identified by the plenary:

hard working             sociable            well organized
admits mistakes               intelligent              innovative
has perseverance              charismatic              confident
tolerant           accessible            has           adequate
wise/good judgment       vital                    rational
gender sensitive              balanced            creative
compassionate            honest              passionate
humorous                 objective           pragmatic
visionary                modest              uses resources well

McCormack then asked participants to look at this list and think about what the organizational equivalents of these qualities might be. The following list was compiled by participants and does not exactly correspond to the preceding list since some individual qualities did not lend themselves to organizational adaptation:

efficient                self-evaluates           concerned
plans              good               public              image
innovates                stable                   good leadership
has         adequate         resources         non-exaggerating
good       staff        relations        attracts       members
ability to anticipate

The plenary then split into four groups. The task was to look at these organizational attributes and select five priorities. Each group put their five priority attributes on flip chart paper and presented their preferences with justifications to the larger group. The next task was to develop five priority attributes as a large group. The plenary selected the following:

                        good leadership
                       adequate resources
                         good planning
              accountability (moral and financial)

Once the five priorities were identified, participants returned to their small groups. Each group was to work on further defining the concept of credibility, as well as one other attribute, and then report out to the plenary. Each presentation would be followed by a brief feedback session. The first group to present their deliberations had grappled with "planning". It identified the following eight distinct steps in organizational planning:

1.   identification of area of activities
2.   identification of resources
3.   allocation of resources
4.   review of obstacles
5.   development of strategy for dealing with obstacles
6.   set target dates
7.   martial resources
8.   evaluation/progress report to annual meetings

The first observation about the steps identified by the "planning" group was that mandate had to be determined before a human rights group moved on to activities. Another participant commented that simply reporting to an annual meeting was not an effective evaluation technique. In this regard, it was important to go to the "end user"--the people who received or failed to receive the group's assistance. The earlier noted importance of involving target populations in the evaluation process was repeated here. One mechanism suggested for doing this was asking the communities being served to fill out a questionnaire.

The next group to present had focused on "accountability" which it saw as having two components: internal and external. The accountability group pointed out that a distinction had to be made between staff and membership-run organizations. Staff-run organizations, it was noted, did not contend with as much scrutiny as membership-run ones did. Therefore, making a staff-run organization accountable would require a strong and independent board and internal democracy. To establish internal accountability, a system of checks and balances would have to be established and detailed and regular financial reports would have to be submitted to the board and donors. In the case of membership-based organizations, the leadership and staff would be accountable to the membership.

Participants posed the question of how it was that an organization established internal checks and balances, and what specific mechanisms could be employed to keep staffs accountable to their membership. It was noted that structures for checks and balances like complaint committees, review boards, and so on were often established and allowed to function, but their conclusions and recommendations were completely ignored. The same was often true of a board of directors, which, although intended as a check on the staff, often simply rubber stamped what the executive director proposed. One approach cited was the establishment of some mechanisms by which other members of the staff would have access to the board. For example, a staff representative could actually sit on the board, or some mechanism could be created for the anonymous provision of concrete information to the board to prevent the executive director from commandeering the process.

One of the participants described the system of checks and balances that his membership organization had established in Somaliland. A Board of Founders met once a year to elect the Oversight Committee which was essentially a council of elders. The Congress (members) of the organization met every two years to elect a chairman who appointed the executive unit which handled the day to day work of the organization. The Oversight Committee had the power to sack the chairman. Though the organization was young, this system had worked well to date. The third group presented on the components of adequate resources which it broke down into two categories: human and financial. It started by identifying a few common problems relating to human resources--namely the lack of expertise and trained personnel on the one hand, and a lack of commitment on the other. The question of incentives and remuneration in relation to the commitment issue was noted, but not explained. The "resource" group emphasized the need to make rational use of staff. In some organizations, it noted, skills were wasted by having a highly skilled individual running errands or performing administrative work. This led to the conclusion that volunteers were essential so that tasks not requiring specific skills could be accomplished without costing the organization more than expenses. It would also be important to give plenty of thought to the optimal number of staff and volunteers, since too few could lead to panic and too many could lead to confusion and malaise. On the subject of financial resources, the group sounded the unanimous call for more funding overall to cover staff and activities. It highlighted the problems most human rights groups face regarding continuity and sustainability, and recommended that groups focus on raising institutional support to cover essential costs like equipment and transportation. This group's frustration with the fact that most human rights groups are constantly threatened with the suspension of their activities due to lack of funds was roundly seconded by all present. The main response from the plenary to this presentation, was that it had mentioned human and financial resources, but left out material resources.

The last group to present focused on "leadership" and had developed a list of personal qualities and management skills important for the leader of a human rights organization to possess:

Personal qualities:

1. Knowledgeable about human rights  issues and the environment in which they exist
2.   Good analytic mind
3.   Charismatic
4.   Possessing self-control
5.   Open minded
6.   Generous
7.   Good diplomat
8.   Creative/entrepreneurial
9.   Good organizer
10.  Flexible
11.  Accessible
12.  Good image locally, and ideally nationally and internationally

Management skills:

1.  Willing to  be  accountable to  staff/fosters internal transparency

2. Shares leadership  responsibilities/good delegator/committed to building an institution

3.   Fosters participatory decision-making

4. Good consensus  builder/can tolerate  differences of opinion and resolve them

5.   Firm but not intransigent decision-maker

6. Good  motivator/establishes staff reward systems and has ability to keep staff accountable

7.   Solicits feedback

8.   Sensitive to preoccupations of the staff

Several participants questioned whether charisma was a necessary quality in a leader, pointing out that charisma often went hand in hand with dogmatism and an autocratic kind of personality--witness the plethora of charismatic dictators. Another participant suggested that leadership was "situational", meaning that the qualities one looks for in a leader will depend on the type of human rights organization, the environment in which it is operating, the constituency to which it is appealing, etc. He also noted that such a long list of prerequisites for a leader was unrealistic; the leadership group was describing a person who was unlikely to exist. Therefore, it would be better to look at specific situations and prioritize the qualities necessary for that particular context. The final comment came from one of the resource people who questioned the value of focusing on the specific qualities of the top person. He thought that the group should have looked at leadership in terms of the organization: how to build competence and staff ability, how to identify which leadership skills were needed, and how an organization could build such skills. When looking at individuals, the group might have recognized that the executive director of the organization is not the only leader; there are also project officers, organizers, etc.

The session on organizational health concluded with a quick rundown of the components that all four groups had associated with credibility. Due to a shortage of time, it was only possible to look at the attributes identified by the groups. No discussion followed on this crucial topic, though it was discussed in many other contexts throughout the workshop. There was great consensus among the four groups on the properties of credibility, which were identified as:

1.   Accuracy of information (verified)
2.   Non-partisan
3.   Objectivity
4.   Independence (financial and political)
5.   Accountability to mandate and constituency served
6.   Practicing what is preached (respect for the human rights of others on the part of staff)
7.   Inclusiveness
8.   Transparency
9.   Consistency
10.  Perseverance

Generating Resources:

Chris Mburu, a Kenyan attorney working as a field organizer for Amnesty International, led a session on resource generation. In introducing the topic, he called participants' attention to the fact that the organizers had very consciously avoided naming the session "fundraising" because there were ways to build an organization's resources that went beyond the acquisition of money. The session would be a brainstorming one focusing on methods of generating human and material, as well as financial, resources and on the subject of fundraising, the group would look at both the local and international components.

Mburu emphasized the importance of local groups being creative about generating human and material resources, noting that all too often, human rights organizations overlooked these components and focused only on seeking funding from international agencies and foundations. He observed that securing human and material resources could serve to deepen the commitment of those who donated them, as well as that of international funders who often insisted that an organization demonstrate its local support before they would consider a grant proposal. Mburu noted that he was constantly surprised and impressed by the creative strategies that local groups employed, and said that he was sure that workshop participants, in sharing their ideas and experience, would give each other many new ideas. He then opened the floor for ideas on ways of generating human resources and the following list was compiled from the ensuing contributions:

1. Use of volunteers to relieve the administrative burden;

2. Use of volunteers who can offer sporadic professional services (accountants, lawyers, etc.);

3. Securing outside services at a reduced fee from businesses, etc. who believe in the cause;

4. Use of "affiliates" or people who are willing to donate their expertise to the organization's public programs (for example, a prominent person or academic willing to be a guest speaker for an organizational event);

5. Staff itself works on a voluntary basis;

6. Exchanging the use of the organization's facility or equipment for volunteer time.

Next participants were asked to share experiences and brainstorm on new ways of generating material resources. Below are some of the creative suggestions that emerged from the group:

1. Use of organizational members' private facilities;

2. Ask churches and other sympathetic institutions to allow the organization to use their facilities free of charge;

3. Ask each organizational member to contribute one necessary item (a chair, a table, supplies, etc.);

4. "Liberate" an unused government office;

5. Ask sympathetic institutions to donate equipment, supplies and furniture (computers, fax machines, paper, etc.);

6. Convert old buses, plains, trains, etc. to offices or classrooms, depending on the need;

7. Minimize the need for material resources (instead of an office, conduct meetings on mats under a tree or in someone's home).

Finally, participants were encouraged to think about securing funding to buy what could not be volunteered, donated, or done without. First, the group focused on local fundraising which could be done through:

1. Membership dues;

2. Charging entrance fees for concerts, plays and cultural and sporting events;

3. Subscriptions;

4. Soliciting local businesses and other contacts;

5. Selling national clothes and food;

6. Making and selling local handicrafts;

7. Auctions

8. Exhibitions;

9. Selling the reports of the organization;

10. Income generation projects (renting out equipment; buying livestock and selling its bi-products such as milk, skin, etc.);

11. Starting a guest house and asking people to support the organization by staying there;

12. Renting a facility to hold seminars and speaker programs and charging admission;

13. Organizational members allocating to the organization a small percentage of the profit they make privately ;

14. Selling newspapers.

Since international funding is generally secured through direct contact with funders and grant proposal writing, the discussion of this topic focused on considerations relating to foreign donors and the frustrations of local groups in this area. The first question in many participants' minds was whether or not to take money from governments. Some participants felt that accepting money from any government could compromise the public perception (or reality) of the organization's independence, while others felt that the consideration of government funding should be considered on a case by case basis. The decision to accept government funding, some believed, should depend on the nature of the group and the human rights record and level of intrusiveness of the government in question. It could compromise the image of a human rights group to accept funds from a government with a bad human rights record, but an organization could be similarly damaged by accepting funds from a private institution with a questionable reputation. A question was also raised regarding funding from institutions which are not government entities, but are largely or exclusively funded by government. Most people felt that a group should not accept money from its own government, although in countries like Canada where governmentally-funded human rights organizations regularly criticized their home government, it wouldn't necessarily compromise the group's image of impartiality. At the conclusion of the session, there appeared to be near consensus that all funders, government and non-governmental, should be scrutinized (though groups should not be overly paranoid) and decisions made on a case by case basis.

The discussion moved to the difficulties inherent in dealing with international funders. Many participants expressed frustration over what they perceived as unreasonable demands on the part of international funders. Tedious and too frequent reporting requirements combined with a lack of understanding of local difficulties in meeting these requirements, excessive intrusiveness and imposition of foreign priorities were common complaints. In addition, international donors were frequently inclined to fund specific projects, but unwilling to provide the institutional support crucial to sustaining the infrastructure that made such projects possible. And even in instances where funders were willing to provide institutional support, they often made unreasonable demands such as requiring a group to rent rather than buy equipment even though purchasing it would actually be cheaper. Participants seemed unanimous in concluding that their policy should be to accept foreign funds only if the donors' objectives matched their own and there were no strings attached vis a vis the substantive work of their organizations. Finally, one person raised the problem of home governments branding local groups as the agents of foreign governments when they accept money from international funders. Participants responded that this was unavoidable and that one of the advantages of sustaining a group's activities completely locally was avoiding such charges.


In this session, participants were asked to evaluate the workshop itself. In asking participants to do this, the organizers had three objectives: to demonstrate the value and importance of continually evaluating one's work; to provide an admittedly brief forum for participants to hone their evaluative skills in a context less threatening than if they had been asked to evaluate their own work; and to generate feedback from participants which would assist the organizers in catering future workshops to the specific substantive and procedural needs of human rights activists in the Horn of Africa.

Participants were divided into four smaller groups and asked to evaluate the workshop bearing in mind the organizers' objectives and the five priority challenges participants identified in the very first exercise of the workshop. One half hour was allotted for participants to identify what was well done and what opportunities for improvement existed. The facilitator encouraged the groups to be frank, and not to worry about the organizers' reactions to suggestions for improvement.

The first group to report out to the plenary began by citing the "well-dones". Members of Group One were grateful that recognition had been given to women's rights issues, which in the past had not been considered part of the broader human rights agenda, and stated that they had derived much encouragement from this more enlightened approach. The workshop had also demonstrated the need for human rights NGOs in the Horn to think more seriously about institution-building issues and they believed that it would strengthen their activities with respect to fundraising, training and networking. Group One also appreciated the fact that discussions were based on actual experiences. Group One was frustrated, however, by the short amount of time allotted for the workshop because concepts such as "accountability" were raised but not sufficiently discussed. Although the workshop had effectively introduced the concept of networking and its possible advantages, it did not show participants how to do it. Group One recommended that the next workshop be five instead of three days long.

Group Two started by saying that it felt that the workshop objectives had been achieved. Participants had demonstrated a keen desire to network and had been given an opportunity to begin that process. The newer organizations within the group felt they had been given a "good, confident start", and the more established organizations felt that the workshop had provided a much-needed forum for reflection and broader understanding of institution-building issues. Group Two was also satisfied that the program and the logistics had been "well-controlled and managed". There was room for improvement in several areas, however. Like Group One, Group Two thought that the workshop should have been longer and covered more topics in more depth. Group Two wished the resource people had been asked to prepare presentations and handouts, and that participants had been asked to make specific presentations on the conditions and needs of their respective countries.

Group Three thought that the workshop had been successful in helping participants to:

    1.   Define their objectives
    2.   Build an organization
    3.   Come to know each other
    4.   Exchange experiences and ideas
    5.   Gain a regional perspective  on human rights conditions in the Horn of Africa
    6.   Investigate the situation of political detainees
    7.   Communicate injustices to the international community
    8.   Contact other human rights organizations

Group Three also noted that the case studies had been very interesting. On the negative side, Group Three observed that the workshop had not provided specific instruction on how to obtain financial assistance from international organizations. It also noted that despite the fact that Ethiopia had the largest human rights community in the region, only three groups had fully participated in the workshop. Group Three concluded its presentation by recommending that human rights organizations in the Horn of Africa establish a formal network.

The fourth group was composed of the organizers and the resource people. The group did not present their findings at the plenary session, since it did not want to unduly influence participants' views and the discussion that followed. However, we include them here. Group Four felt that the workshop's strengths included: a broad enough agenda to accommodate the diversity of human rights work being done in the Horn; the selection of participants and resource people; and the heavy emphasis on small group work which allowed for the active participation of people who were less inclined to speak out in the plenary sessions. The group identified a number of opportunities for improvement in future workshops, however. Among them were the following:

1. More inclusiveness in the plenary sessions of all participants;

2. Broader Ethiopian participation;

3. Simplified discussions

4. Fewer agenda items to allow for more comprehensive discussions;

5. More time to go from the general to the specific, and visa versa;

6. More time for the resource people to share their

experiences; 7. More standard definitions on what is commonly meant by campaign, coalition, network, etc. in the human rights context;

8. More time for reviewing the purpose of participatory exercises and for conclusory remarks.


Most of the discussion centered on amplifying the points made in the presentation. Participants observed that the small group dynamic had fostered full and free participation and that the balance between large and small group activity had been good. Several participants commented on the balance between presentations and participatory exercises, noting that the African way of conducting business tended to be more formal with greater reliance on presentation. The participatory process, however, was thought to be very important. Based on these comments and the earlier evaluation reports, the organizers concluded that future workshops should have a slightly heavier presentational component. Several people suggested that for the participants for whom the concepts enumerated during the workshop were new, it would be helpful if presentations were printed and distributed in advance of the workshop. One organization, for example, had used the upcoming workshop as an impetus to do its own internal review based on the enclosed agenda. This process could have been further facilitated by the receipt of materials in advance. Likewise, the resource people could have benefitted from more information regarding the nature of the groups participating.

Agreeing with all of the points raised, the organizers explained their reasoning and some of the obstacles they faced in accommodating several of the suggestions. The workshop organizers had recognized from the start that the workshop agenda was too broad to comprehensively cover each topic over the course of three days. Ideally, as participants pointed out, a longer period would have been allotted for both workshopping and recreation. Unfortunately, this was purely a funding constraint. Knowing that for budgetary reasons, a three-day workshop was the maximum possible, organizers were faced with the choice of providing less of an overview and dealing with fewer institution-building topics in more depth, or laying out the fuller range of topics and using this first meeting of human rights advocates in the Horn to identify the most important areas for further discussion in the future.

Because the workshop incorporated human rights groups with widely varying mandates and differing levels of experience, the organizers did not want to predict aggregate priorities. Although feedback on the agenda was solicited in the letter inviting participants to the workshop, none was received. Communications problems and overloaded schedules had made direct contact between participants and organizers very difficult and expensive, and no direct contact had been possible with the eight participants from Somaliland and Somalia. Therefore, the organizers had decided to use the workshop as an opportunity to: stress the importance of giving careful thought to institution-building issues in the early stages of development; introduce the major areas of institution-building and some of the experience of groups from other parts of the world; learn more about some of the groups who were new to us; assess with participants their needs to see what kind of workshops and what mixture of groups would be most worthwhile in the future; and provide extensive written information on the particulars of organization-building to serve as advance materials for the next workshop. The cost, slowness and unreliability of sending the large packet of materials provided to participants at the workshop by mail accounted for the failure to get these written resources to attendees in advance of this first workshop.

On the subject of how to secure international funding, the organizers had purposely de-emphasized this aspect of resource generation by not including it in the official workshop agenda. This decision had been taken for reasons of time and because it was felt that too often, groups turn to this option before fully exploring local and in-kind alternatives. An optional session on this topic, however, had been arranged for one of the evenings, but no one had attended. After hearing this explanation, participants nonetheless felt strongly that a detailed session on this topic should have been included during the workshop itself.

Finally, on the subject of formal presentations by the resource people on their respective experiences, the organizers explained that they had decided to emphasize participatory exercises over formal presentations because they thought that this would allow for the natural emergence of relevant experience as specific topics came up, while keeping the sessions inter-active. In retrospect, however, the organizers agreed that a more even balance between presentations and inter-active sessions might have provided more structure and better suited newer human rights organizations in the Horn of Africa. At the end of the evaluation session, participants were asked to fill out a workshop evaluation questionnaire, a copy of which is included in appendix C.

Future Needs and Training

The discussion on future needs and training was held in plenary, and centered on the issue of networking. It was noted that participants had much in common culturally, and that the formation of a network seemed like it would be a natural outgrowth of the workshop and critical for its "continuity". A network was seen to be a "pathfinder for sustainable relationships between human rights groups in the Horn". At a minimum, such a network would provide a mechanism for the participating groups to keep in touch, but it could also be a source of information and documentation exchange, and play a role in establishing collective security for human rights groups in the region. One participant suggested that one of the groups take responsibility for establishing a clearing house. Several groups offered to initiate the desired regional network, but no decision was made at the workshop as to which group would take primary responsibility.

Some participants felt that it would be best not to be too ambitious at first, since proper networking was not currently taking place within all the countries of the Horn. Words of caution about networks earlier voiced by several of the resource people were reiterated here, with one person reminding the plenary that in his experience the only time that groups maintained an active network was when some specific interest of all the groups was being served. He suggested that groups think about developing several smaller, more focused networks around women's issues, documentation, etc. A participant responded that he thought that groups should perfect their national networks before devoting efforts to a regional effort. "If we mean it," he said, "then we should start in our own countries." It was also noted that there were several institutions in the region already engaged in developing a broad network of East African groups: The Inter-Africa Group based in Addis Ababa and The Regional Center for Human Rights and Development in Asmara. A network based in Senegal called FAVDO was also mentioned. FAVDO was mainly an advocacy group which represented African NGOs in international fora. FAVDO was interested in opening an office in East Africa and Oxfam USA was considering funding it.

Regardless of what networks might be utilized by groups in the Horn of Africa in the future, participants seemed to agree that an annual meeting of human rights NGOs in the Horn of Africa should be organized. The further suggestion was made that each year, a different group based in the Horn could take responsibility for the event. In the immediate term, however, the workshop organizers should make sure that all participants received the names, addresses, etc. of the others.

Although the issue of networking dominated the session, some other future needs were identified. Participants thought that videos designed to raise human rights consciousness and instruct in methods of fact-finding and documentation would be extremely useful. They also felt that there was a need for more training materials on how human rights workers can simplify the concept of human rights for their target populations. Internships with more experienced human rights organizations and follow-up workshops on the specific mechanics of institution-building, documentation and human rights education were also cited. Finally, participants expressed their desire for more actual case study work on the Horn.


The organizers closed the workshop by thanking participants for their contributions from which everyone, including the organizers, had learned a great deal. The Ethiopian Congress for Democracy and The Fund for Peace promised to write a detailed account of the workshop, and send it to all participants, along with a contact list of those who attended and an updated agenda. Participants were urged to continue to reflect on the questions and dilemmas raised during the workshop, and to contact the organizers with further suggestions for future workshops and other training strategies. The farewells, thank yous and closing remarks continued over dinner at a traditional Ethiopian restaurant with music and dancing. Toasts expressing solidarity, the joy of new friendships made and the eagerness to build long-lasting relationships ended the evening on a festive and emotional note.

                           APPENDIX A



                     AND THE FUND FOR PEACE

                        (May 2-4, 1994)
Opening reception for participants, funders, press, Ethiopian diplomats, international organizations and diplomats



    8:00-8:45    Registration
    8:45-9:15    Opening:   Welcome/Overview of  workshop and objectives (Abraham Abebe, ECD)
    9:15-9:30    Explanation of workshop procedures (Leah Leatherbee, FFP)
    9:30-10:15   Introduction of participants (1 minute each)

    10:15-10:30                   Break

    10:30-11:30    Warm-up Activity: Human Rights Frame Game
11:30-11:45 Overview presentation on human rights mandate, strategies and the organizational requirements needed to promote them (Seny Diagne,WLD Senegal) 11:45-12:45 Small group exercise on mandate 12:45-1:45 Lunch Afternoon 1:45-3:15 Presentation of groups' mandates (9 minutes each)and reactions by other participants and resource people 3:15-3:30 Break 3:30-4:45 Discussion on: _Purpose and use of objectives and mandate _Broad vs. specialized mandates _Scope of mandate _Credibility: independence and impartiality; partisan vs. nonpartisan _Reality-testing objectives and mandate: are they realistic given the expertise an funding available? given the attitudes of local government and the population at large? _Assessing mandate for success potential 4:45-5:00 Reactions to remainder of workshop agenda and announcements MAY 3, TUESDAY: STRATEGY Morning 8:15-8:45 Monitoring and documentation: presentations by resource people 8:45-9:45 Discussion _Selecting, compiling and storing information _Credibility: impartiality and accuracy of information _Turning information into documentation _Putting documentation to work 9:45-10:00 Break 10:00-10:45 Small group exercise on reaching out to rural and grassroots communities 11:15-11:30 Small groups report out 11:30-12:00 Discussion 12:00-1:00 Lunch Afternoon 1:00-2:00 Planning a campaign: small group exercise _Objectives and duration _Target audiences _Documentation needed _Strategies _Networking and coalition-building _Budgeting _Evaluation 2:00-2:30 Small groups present their plan to the larger group 2:30-3:00 Discussion 3:00-3:15 Break 3:15-4:00 Discussion of coalition-building MAY 4, WEDNESDAY: ORGANIZATION Morning 8:30-9:15 Brainstorming on attributes of a healthy organization 9:15-9:45 Small group work: identify five priority attributes 9:45-10:15 Plenary on priority attributes 10:15-10:30 Break 10:30-11:15 Small group work: each group amplifies one of the five priorities 11:15-11:45 Small groups report out 11:45-12:15 Discussion 12:15-1:15 Lunch Afternoon 1:30-2:30 Brainstorming on generation of resources 2:30-3:00 Small group exercise on evaluation 3:00-3:15 Break 3:15-3:45 Small groups report out 3:45-4:00 Discussion/Suggestions for improvement 4:00-4:15 Participants fill out workshop evaluation form 4:15-4:45 Recommendations for addressing additional training needs 4:45-5:00 Closing and announcements _Evaluation of organization: importance and techniques _Timing organizational expansion 1:45-2:15 Discussion 2:15-2:30 Individual work: participants identify the strengths and weaknesses of their own organizations 2:30-3:00 Remarks by resource people: Fund raising _Internal v external funding: pros and cons _Strategies and guidelines 3:00-3:15 Break 3:15-3:45 Discussion of fund raising 3:45-4:30 Group evaluation of workshop applying evaluation techniques earlier discussed 4:30-5:00 Recommendations for addressing additional institution-building training needs 5:00-5:30 Closing remarks and announcements APPENDIX C WORKSHOP EVALUATION

The Fund for Peace and the Ethiopian Congress for Democracy would like your anonymous evaluation of the workshop. We will use these evaluations to design any future programs on institutional capacity-building for NGOs. Thank you for your time, candid criticism, and suggestions.

1. Did you find that the workshop was structured in the manner most conducive to productive dialogue and brainstorming?

2. Do you feel that the workshop accomplished its objectives? Did it accomplish yours?

3. How did the number of participants affect the efficient functioning of the workshop? (too many? too few? just right?)

4. How do you assess the length of the workshop? (too long? too short? just right?)

5. How do you assess the role of the resource people at the workshop? Did you find their contributions helpful? In what ways could their expertise have been presented or used more effectively?

6. Were the logistical details of the workshop (location, lodging, transportation, etc.) handled adequately?

7. Please comment generally on the strengths and weaknesses of the workshop and how you think this type of session could be improved in the future.

8. What impact, if any, do you anticipate this workshop will have on your organization?

9. What kind of follow-up would you like to see the co-sponsors of this workshop engage in?

10. Other comments and suggestions:

Subject: Human Rights Institution Building in the Horn of Africa
Date: Mon, 14 Nov 94 09:09:37 GMT
Message-Id: <>