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FOCUS September 2017 Volume 89

Human Rights Centers: Serving Local Needs


Many human rights centers were established to serve the needs of people in a specific area such as city, province or region. These centers refer to those established or supported by local governments, or based in universities in provinces (or states), and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

National Support
National institutions play a role in establishing human rights centers in the provinces or states of the country. The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights in Indonesia supported provincial universities in establishing the Pusat Studi Hak Asasi Manusia (Center for Human Rights Studies) and popularly known as PUSHAM; the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) had agreements with “Korean universities since 2006 for the establishment of human rights centers that would make universities the regional hubs on human rights,” the University Grants Commission of India provides financial support to several universities to establish human rights programs that supported the establishment of human rights centers. 

The agreement between the Korean universities and the NHRCK highlighting the role of universities outside Seoul as “regional hubs on human rights” points to the necessity of undertaking human rights initiatives in areas far from the capital cities in order to serve the needs of local people and institutions.1   

The services of these university-based centers complement the human rights initiatives of local governments and NGOs.  

Policy Advocacy
The General Research Institute on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC Institute), founded in 2002 in Tokyo, has been providing support to a number of cities in Japan on child rights measures. As stated in the profile of CRC Institute, its “main members directly or indirectly contribute to the enactment or implementation of children’s rights ordinances, formulation of comprehensive child policies, development of systems for child participation or remedies for children and restructuring of administrative organizations concerned with children, including by chairing relevant councils, training officials and providing information.”2  

The CRC Institute works on the Child-friendly Cities campaign in Japan. At least forty local governments in Japan enacted ordinances that are named either as “Child Rights Ordinance” or “Child Ordinance,” with the latter avoiding the word “Rights” due to the3

problem of acceptance of the idea of claiming “rights.” Regardless of name, however, the contents of these ordinances do not differ much from each other. Aside from these basic ordinances, many local governments enacted ordinances focusing on specific issues such as prevention of child abuse, child rearing, sound development of children, etc.

The CRC Institute sees the necessity of clarifying the concept of rights among the local government officials while working at the same time for the adoption of local government child rights policy. 

Similar advocacy work is done by human rights centers in Indonesia. The Legal Resource Center for Gender Justice and Human Rights (Legal Resources Center Keadilan Jender dan Hak Asasi Manusia) or LRC-KJHAM, a NGO, has a policy advocacy program that “aims 1) to encourage fair gender budgeting, such as having fair contribution of budget on women issues or making the budget capable of making impact on the elimination of discrimination against women, rights of beneficiaries or improvement on status of women in 

various sectors based on the highest attainable standard of the state; and 2) improvement of the level of local government policies on women.”4

Gender-fair budgeting (or gender-responsive budgeting) in Indonesia is based on a law (Presidential Instruction No. 9/ 2000 on Gender Mainstreaming) and thus has the support of the national government and part of the agenda of local governments.5 Under this situation, the human rights centers have the opportunity to provide information, materials and training to the local government officials in drafting gender-responsive budgets that not only meet national criteria but suit local conditions. The PUSHAMs have that opportunity being based in academic institutions (universities) with the resources to undertake research, develop localized materials, and capacity-building. Some of the PUSHAMs are working with the local governments in the areas where they operate.

Protection Measures
Human rights centers also have programs on working with local communities. The Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG), a NGO, works directly with villagers to6  

help them overcome outside perceptions of them as 'helpless victims' by focusing on their strengths and the strategies they already use successfully to resist human rights abuses and retain control over their own lives, land and livelihoods. Through this work, [KHRG] hope[s] to catalyze discussions and other processes among villagers themselves that can enhance these strategies and strengthen their position relative to armed and powerful groups.

In another conflict area, a human rights center faced the challenge of making peace monitoring mechanism effective. The Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (MinHRAC), a Mindanao-based NGO, recommends the following:7

To avoid the impression that they [local people] are being exploited for monitoring purposes, it is important that they have a real stake and participation in the monitoring and data generation process. The residents should have the autonomy to decide on the deployment of monitors, trending and forecasting, and many other issues. They can be supported with information on common monitoring template, and other tools.

MinHRAC promotes the idea of8

empowering the residents of communities affected by the conflict. The residents of the communities are encouraged to form their own organizations that can coordinate their human rights activities with MinHRAC; which establishes a monitoring system to be run by community organizations.

Local Libraries
Many human rights centers maintain a library specializing on human rights. The intended users of the library largely depends on the type of human rights center involved. Many university-based human rights centers maintain a human rights library to serve the needs of undergraduate students taking up courses on human rights, or those enrolled in human rights masteral or doctorate courses. Some of the human rights centers that operate within a specific locality have library for the people in the place. One example is Al Haq, an independent Palestinian non-governmental human rights organization based in Ramallah, West Bank and established in 1979. It has a specialized international law library for the use of its staff and the local community.

While Al Haq works at a specific locality, the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), it has international connection through its special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Documenting violations of the individual and collective rights of Palestinians in the OPT, irrespective of the identity of the perpetrator, it seeks to end such breaches by way of advocacy before national and international mechanisms and by holding the violators accountable.9  

This advocacy program explains the specialized international law library that Al Haq offers to the people in the local community.

The Community Development Library (CDL) provides another example. Established in 1980, CDL aimed to provide development information to activists and organizations who are committed to the promotion of sustainable development, gender equity, social justice, human rights and community education. CDL maintains twenty-four Rural Information Resource Centres (RIRCs) in various regions of Bangladesh to cater to the information needs of people from all walks of life. The RIRCs have also been carrying out multifarious information, awareness raising, advocacy and policy lobbying initiatives in close collaboration with other development organizations working in the program areas.10  

Final Note

Human rights centers that serve the needs of local communities, and of people of “all walks of life,” provide a very important role in making human rights known and supported at the local level. This function of the human rights centers complements the role played by other centers working at the national and international levels.
For more information, please contact HURIGHTS OSAKA.

1 See Overview: Human Rights Centers in the Asia-Pacific,
2 See profile of the General Research Institute on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC Institute), Directory of Asia-Pacific Human Rights Centers,
3 Isami Kinoshita, “Japanese Movements on Children’s Participation and Child-friendly City,” Human Rights Education in Asia-Pacific, volume 6, 2015, pages 13-14. Full text of the article available at
4 See profile of the Legal Resources Center for Gender Justice and Human Rights (LRC-KJHAM), Directory of Asia-Pacific Human Rights Centers,
5 Gender Responsive Budgeting "seeks to ensure that the collection and allocation of public resources is carried out in ways that are effective and contribute to advancing gender equality and women's empowerment. It should be based on in-depth analysis that identifies effective interventions for implementing policies and laws that advance women’s rights. It provides tools to assess the different needs and contributions of men and women, and boys and girls within the existing revenues, expenditures and allocations and calls for adjusting budget policies to benefit all groups." UN Women Asia-Pacific, Gender Responsive Budgeting,
6 See profile of Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG), Directory of Asia-Pacific Human Rights Center,
7 Zainudin S. Malang, “Local and Community-Led Conflict Monitoring,” FOCUS Asia-Pacific,
8 Ibid.
9 See profile of Al Haq, Directory of Asia-Pacific Human Rights Centers,
10 See profile of CDL, Directory of Asia-Pacific Human Rights Centers,