How to Take Steps to Protect Human Rights (part 3)

Human rights are fundamental rights that all human beings possess regardless of their race, ethnicity, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, residence, religion or any other status.

Part 3

Protecting Human Rights in your Professional Life

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1. Pursue a career as a human rights lawyer. National and international law are the primary way that human rights are guaranteed and protected. Therefore, pursing a career as a human rights attorney is a very direct way that you can professionally protect human rights around the world or in your own country. Human rights attorneys bring cases on behalf of victims of human rights violations and against state actors or governments that are violating national and international law.[16]

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2. Participate in a human rights fellowship. If you are unsure of how best to put your skills to work in supporting human rights, you can consider participating in the United Nation’s human rights fellowship program. These programs are run throughout the world and provide those selected an intensive introduction and understanding of human rights mechanisms and international institutions. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) offers four fellowship programs:

  • The Indigenous Fellowship Program, which is for members of indigenous groups who seek human rights training.
  • The Minorities Fellowship Program is for persons belonging to national, ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities who with to receive human rights training.
  • The Human Rights LDC Fellowship Program is a program for graduate students from the least developed countries who want to participate in training on the United Nations and human rights.
  • The Fellowship for National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) Staff provides staff members from NHRIs training on international human rights and the work of OHCHR with NHRIs.[17]
  • You can find application information and instructions at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/AboutUs/CivilSociety/Documents/Handbook_en.pdf

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3. Work for a human rights organization. There are numerous organizations dedicated to promoting and protecting human rights. These organizations hire a variety of staff including activists, administrative assistants, and people who work on campaigns, policy positions, and lobbying. If you are interested in pursuing a career in human rights, consider:

  • Trying to get internships and volunteering as much as possible as a way to get a better sense of the work that these organizations do and whether you are really interested in it.
  • Reading about human rights and thinking about how you can contribute to the movement.
  • Studying or interning abroad while you are in college and learning another language.
  • Learning how to write grants, fundraise, research and write, which are all essential skills for working at a non-governmental organization (NGO).
  • You can review a list of human rights organizations, with contact information, at: http://www.humanrights.com/voices-for-human-rights/human-rights-organizations/non-governmental.html.

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4​​​​​​​. Become a political leader dedicated to human rights. Governments have primary responsibility for protecting and promoting human rights. They must pass laws that establish and protect the human rights of all citizens and they must actively refrain from impinging on those rights. If you are interested in politics, you should consider a career as a legislator. In this role, you will have the ability to introduce human rights legislation, advocate your position, and ultimately support laws that protect human rights.[18]