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Be the Narrative – How changing the narrative could revolutionize what it means to do human rights

by The Fund for Global Human Rights; JustLabs

Published | January 2019

Building narratives


Be the Narrative focuses on a shift in the narrative of human rights work and how tactical, organisational, and field-wide changes are needed to get the new narrative right and thus, to revolutionize the meaning of human rights work. It highlights new narrative responses on populist strategies, namely culture as response to controversy, cooperation towards crisis, and the narrative of community towards conflict.

Why read

This resource offers to refocus and shift the narrative of human rights work that focus on the “human” (and not only on “rights”).


The paper presents strategies to build new narratives about human rights work as the human rights field is undergoing a long-term period of transformation instead of only a moment of crisis.

It suggests three narrative responses towards three common populist strategies: First, a strategy focusing on culture should be the answer to controversy, cooperation towards crisis, and community building towards conflict.

Within this, the paper includes ideas for tactical, organisational, and field-wide changes for human rights work to create a more effective change. The tactical changes shall focus on a new, more positive framework of human rights work. The organisational changes must include new skills and a diversity of expertise in the staff of the human rights organisation. The field-wide changes suggest two inevitable transformations: working on a long-term basis with funders and collaborating with a globally networked media landscape and movements that are working on different causes in different places to work together and ultimately building support for shared values.


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