Dejusticia releases free playbook for defending human rights amidst growing populism

Editor’s note: Dejusticia is a Colombia-based organization involved in climate-change-related indigenous and human rights legislation and advocacy. They organized the 2017 Indigenous Leaders Workshop which we reported on in early 2018.  The following writing is reproduced from Rising to the Populist Challenge: A New Playbook for Human Rights Actors, edited by César Rodríguez-Garavito and Krizna Gomez.  It has been distributed to inspire and educate activists everywhere. (Copyright 2018 Dejusticia.  Contact


Dejusticia launches the edited volume “Rising to the Populist Challenge: A New Playbook for Human Rights Actors,” an innovative resource for civil society actors under threat.


Edited by César Rodríguez-Garavito and Krizna Gomez, this book collects and analyzes a repertoire of responses by human rights organizations to the growing crackdown against civil society in different countries around the world that are experiencing populist moments.

“Populist leaders seem to have been learning from each other in terms of the tactics that they use in delegitimizing and attacking human rights actors. The tools they use are so similar—from Russia to India, and from Venezuela to Hungary—that one cannot help but think that there must be a playbook for the populists of the world. But what is the playbook by human rights actors in counteracting these attacks?” says co-editor and Dejusticia executive director César Rodríguez-Garavito.

According to co-editor Krizna Gomez, “When one’s human rights organization gets branded as terrorist, or its funding is cut, or its members are jailed, the first thing that gets out the door is one’s reflexivity, calm calculation, and the ability to anticipate threats and respond to them effectively. This book is a statement that human rights actors need not be ad hoc in their reaction, because many have undertaken effective responses even in the gravest contexts. We just need to learn from them.”

Written by 17 prominent scholars and advocates in challenging political settings from around the world, the book thus offers ideas and inspiration to their peers in the human rights community who are grappling with and resisting the erosion of democracy and rights. From meticulous documentation of abuses in Turkey to more grassroots forms of social networking in Hungary, from peace caravans in India to finding new ways of being useful under 21st century dictatorships in Venezuela, like war correspondents reporting from the trenches, its authors step forward to share their own continuing struggles to help their communities.

This collection takes two steps towards clearing the path for this civil society transformation. First, it clarifies the specific challenges to human rights raised by contemporary populist regimes and movements. What is the populist playbook against human rights? Second, it contributes to documenting and learning from a wealth of initiatives by human rights actors. What innovations are human rights actors introducing into their strategies and narratives to counter those of populist regimes? In short, what is the human rights playbook against populism?

This book was produced within the partnership between Dejusticia and the Watson Institute of International Affairs at Brown University under the program “Re-Examining Global Policy Agendas via Interactive, South-Initiated North–South Dialogues.”


THE CHAPTERS  [link to PDF document]

Responding to the Populist Challenge: A New Playbook for the Human Rights Field
César Rodríguez-Garavito and Krizna Gomez

The Crackdown on NGOs as an Opportunity to Reinforce Human Rights Values: A Hungarian Case Study
Stefánia Kapronczay and Anna Kertész

Resilience in Non-democratic Contexts: The Challenge of Survival While Being Useful under the Venezuelan 21st Century Dictatorship
Rafael Uzcátegui

The Fifth Estate: Attacking and Coopting the Turkish Media
Bilge Yesil

A Caravan of Love: Protest, Atonement, and Conscience in India
Harsh Mander

The End of Tyranny: How Civil Society in South Africa Fought Back
Ivor Chipkin

How to Survive Between a Rock and a Hard Place: The Experience of Human Rights Organizations in Egypt
Khaled Mansour

The Delegitimization of Civil Society Organizations: Thoughts on Strategic Responses to the ‘Foreign Agent’ Charge
Jonas Wolff

On Death by a Thousand Mosquito Bites: Navigating the Regulatory Attack
Ed Rekosh

What Will It Take to Reduce NGO Dependence on Foreign Aid?
James Ron, José Kaire, Archana Pandya, and Andrea Martínez

Response Strategies to Push Back Against the Global Crackdown on Civil Society
Mandeep Tiwana

A Cautionary Note about the Frame of Peril and Crisis in Human Rights Activism
Kathryn Sikkink

New Ways to Address an Old Problem: Political Repression
Katrin Kinzelbach and Janika Spannagel


Download the PDF


This writing was reproduced from the Dejusticia publication Rising to the Populist Challenge: A New Playbook for Human Rights Actors, Copyright 2018.  It is available for free download on their website.

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Dejusticia releases free playbook for defending human rights amidst growing populism

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