3.3 Human rights promotion

As protection is already grounded in human rights, it is essential that protection should be empowering as well as life-saving. CARE can take steps in its programming to raise awareness among vulnerable populations of human rights and responsibilities, and support any protective strategies the community may already have in place. CARE may also have the opportunity in some contexts to develop the organisational capacity of the community by supporting them in their efforts to promote good governance, rule of law and peacebuilding to end violations of abuse.

In an emergency, the presence of an international organisation like CARE in a given area is thought to be beneficial in deterring potential violators of human rights. However, a mere presence alone can lead to ongoing violations if perpetrators are confident they will not be exposed. It is therefore important that staff of international organisations is aware of the role they play, and make the most of it to ensure respect for and observance of human rights.

CARE must use our field presence to work towards protection, but at the same time balance CARE’s protection approach against any risks that may exist. It is important to remember that protection activities are not always welcomed by authorities and/or armed groups, and can carry risks to the continuance of programmes, staff security and the safety of civilians. Any protection or human rights work must be based on good risk analysis and principles of ‘do no harm’ (refer to Annex 31.9 Do No Harm Framework for Considering the Impact of Aid on Conflict).

CARE USA’s Witnessing Guidelines (Annex 31.10) outline a suggested framework for ways that CARE can engage in human rights work in the context of protection, as outlined below:

Depending on the situation, CARE might choose to take a more direct approach to protection concerns by sing witnessing and monitoring to advocate for better protection of people caught up in conflict and crisis. Witnessing is the act of monitoring and reporting information on violations of human rights that one observes or encounters in one’s work. Human rights violations impact negatively both on the people we serve, and on our relief and development programmes. It is important that these violations are addressed.

CARE can engage in both overt and covert witnessing, depending on the prevailing circumstances in a particular situation. Witnessing is said to be covert where the information gathered is passed on-usually confidentially-to outside organisations, such as human rights monitoring and reporting organisations. It is said to be overt where the information collected is shared with the perpetrators themselves or with the authorities responsible for protecting people from abuses. Given the organisation’s operational nature and the sensitivities often associated with reporting on rights abuses, CARE generally will favour either overt witnessing as part of low-profile advocacy or covert witnessing that does not sacrifice our anonymity. The appropriate course of action will depend very much on the circumstances of any given case and a sound risk analysis.

For more detailed information please see:

Annex 31.10     Draft CARE Witnessing Guidelines
Annex 31.11     Humanitarian protection: Recommendations towards good practice for non-mandated organizations
Annex 31.12    Proactive presence: Field strategies for civilian protection

Protection is the legal responsibility of governments, international peacekeeping forces and/or armed groups on the ground. Advocacy involves influencing those who are legally responsible for protecting civilians in a given situation, to comply with the relevant international laws to ensure population safety. CARE may be able to undertake advocacy to work towards protection objectives. However, such activities must be balanced against staff security, the continuation of programmes, access to affected populations and the risk of putting communities at further risk. For further details, refer to Advocacy.

Where there is limited space for advocacy, CARE can coordinate with protection-mandated agencies such as the UNHCR or Red Cross to bring further attention to protection concerns. Often, these agencies have a greater capacity to respond to a protection threat.