Talking Human Rights in the United States
by The Opportunity Agenda, Thu Dec 10, 2009 at 06:49:11 AM EST
Today, Human Rights Day, serves as an opportunity to tell key audiences why the United States should consider dignity, fairness, and human rights in domestic policy decisions. Several national debates loom in which these values should be central, namely health care and immigration. At the same time, state-level budget crises pose threats to the fulfillment and protection of human rights at the local level.
As we think about the best way to use Human Rights Day in our communications work, recent public opinion research done by our organization offers some insight into public thinking about human rights generally, and its intersection with a range of social justice issues. Our recent released Human Rights Toolkit builds on this research to provide messaging guidelines and recommendations about human rights, treaties and conventions, health care, due process, immigration, racial profiling and criminal justice for young offenders.
The research points in several clear directions when it comes to human rights messaging broadly. First, we need to focus on the values associated with realizing human rights for all. Generally, these include fairness, dignity, and opportunity, but also can include equality, community, redemption, or other core values our audiences hold dear.
Second, it is important to start conversations about the goals of human rights work, not the mechanisms with which we intend to achieve them. For instance, in the case of Human Rights Day, the event reminds us of the importance of fulfilling and protecting the human rights of everyone here. The Universal Declaration is then a tool designed to help us in that endeavor by outlining mutually-agreed upon rights. This order is important, as many audiences do not immediately see the value of international treaties and conventions, but do see the importance of upholding human rights generally.
At this crucial moment, it's important that we get it right when it comes to human rights communications. Leading with the most resonant values, language, facts, and arguments, and targeting the appropriate audiences, will be crucial to motivating our base of human rights supporters while convincing "persuadables"--people who could be reliably with us but are not yet in our camp. This toolkit is intended to provide concrete advice and examples for achieving that goal.