Building a Human Rights Organization: Our Biggest Challenges

As Just Atonement begins to coalesce around a concrete mission, we’re driven by excitement and a strong sense of purpose. We believe that our core goals are built on some of the most pressing needs-- even existential threats—that democratic societies will face during the 21st century, and we’re gathering tools and resources that can meet these needs and push back against these threats. But we’re not alone, of course. Countless nascent human rights organizations with equally vital missions are springing up across the globe, and many of these organizations are likely to face challenges very similar to ours.

So what are some of these critical challenges? And how can we work together to overcome them? We’ve listed three obstacles that are likely to arise as we move forward, and we welcome your thoughts and suggestions as we search for solutions.

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1.       Mission Creep

Making the world a better place and pursuing a vision of global peace are hardly new to the field of human endeavor. Many organizations with similar goals have come before us, and while some have cleared the path and laid the stones on which we’re now traveling, others have stumbled and fallen for one simple reason: the atomization of what started as a single goal. We aim to keep our vision focused, and when a project sprawls beyond the boundaries of our mission and capabilities, we intend to enlist the support and help of experienced partner organizations with relevant knowledge and expertise. We’re constantly in search of guidance and support from specialized organizations with a long reach and deep roots into areas of science and policy development that extend beyond our own. We’re ready and able to ask for help when we need it.

2.       Shifting public interest

While much of our support will come from legal experts, volunteers and partner organizations, we will also rely heavily on a donor base that may rise and fall based on the shifting winds of the 24-hour new cycle. We will always strive to draw clear connections between daily and seasonal threats (such as localized weather events) and broad, universal trends (such as rising sea levels and fluctuating ecosystems). In doing so, we hope to remind our audience of the links between individual events and global shifts affected by current weaknesses in the fabric of international law.

3.       The insidious nature of tyranny and corruption

Too often, leaders who have abused power or carved out dangerous spheres of influence have done so by following a well-traveled path. This path is marked by strategies as old as civilization itself, including reliable tactics like propaganda, fear-mongering, false equivalence, voter suppression, financial corruption and criminal acts of war and international aggression. These are the acts that our organization hopes to rebuff and forestall, but these tactics are historically insidious and effective. We intend to search for grassroots-level solutions, such as improvements in education, information-sharing, and sustainable farming. We also look for ways to reduce the poverty, isolation and desperation that can render populations vulnerable to these pressures.

Our goal involves gathering research and taking legal action in defense of those who are vulnerable to gaps and uncertainties in existing international law. We intend to hold global leaders accountable for actions that fail to protect individuals from looming threats that transcend national borders, including climate change, war crimes, and international trafficking.  

Again, we welcome your suggestions as we gather our resources to face the challenges that lie ahead.