Building a Social Movement in the United States: From Civil Rights to Human Rights
Social movements are the best route towards sustainable change. The human rights movement in the United States seeks social change based on an embrace of universal values, a commitment to a comprehensive set of rights, and a recognition that leadership must come from those most directly impacted by human rights violations.
A broad social movement that embraces universal values can unite a range of communities facing human rights violations. Whether communities are urban or rural, come from different traditions, or face different challenges, the notion that every person -- irrespective of race, gender, language, geography, immigration status or any other status -- is entitled to basic rights and is a valued member of the human family enables people to work together within one movement across these differences towards their common vision. A movement that embraces universal values and consequently is concerned with the human dignity and equality of all people can also bring other social movements together under one umbrella, thus allowing movements that may each have a different focus, but share these common values to support one another. The goal of a movement based on universal values is full social and economic inclusion of every member of society - leaving no one behind with full equality for all.
The Full Range of Human Rights
The U.S. human rights movement is committed to ensuring protection for the full range of human rights. Recognizing that basic rights are all interlinked - for example that adequate housing is essential for good health and education helps ensure decent jobs - a broad human rights movement pushes activism and advocacy away from narrow and isolated issue-based struggles towards a full and interconnected social justice agenda. All rights must be adequately protected, and trade-offs between them are not acceptable. Principles such as accountability by government, participation by communities, and equity and non-discrimination apply with equal force across all basic rights.
Effective social justice movements are led by those who have the greatest at stake. The U.S. human rights movement is no different and must be led by communities who are suffering violations and deprivations of their basic rights. Participation by impacted communities is also a basic principle of human rights, making community leadership an indispensable part of movement building efforts. Across the United States poor communities have taken up this leadership role and are shaping the landscape of human rights activism in our country today.