1. What We Do
What we Do
CHRI’s work focuses on the following core themes: Access to Information and Access to Justice, which includes Prison Reform, Police Reform, advocacy on media rights and the South Asia Media Defenders Network (SAMDEN) and Contemporary Forms of Slavery. CHRI additionally monitors human rights situations across the Commonwealth through its International Advocacy and Programming (IAP) unit.
Access to Information: Our ATI programme advocates for the realisation of people’s basic human right to access information from government and other public bodies in Commonwealth countries. Access to information was the foundation on which CHRI’s other programmes were established. CHRI believes that without the initial knowledge to hold governments to account, justice cannot be served. Informed participation by all must therefore be guaranteed by a strong legislation and the process of law-making itself must be participatory and informed by the realities of communities.
Police Reforms (Access to Justice): In too many countries the police are seen as an oppressive instrument of state rather than as protectors of citizens’ rights, leading to widespread rights violations and denial of justice. CHRI promotes systemic reform so that the police act as upholders of the rule of law rather than as instruments of the current regime. In India, CHRI’s programme aims at mobilising public support for police reform. In South Asia, CHRI works to strengthen civil society engagement on police reforms. In East Africa and Ghana, CHRI examines police accountability issues and political interference.
Prison Reforms (Access to Justice): CHRI’s work is focused on increasing transparency of a traditionally closed system and exposing malpractices. This includes highlighting failures of the legal system that result in terrible overcrowding and unconscionably long pre-trial detention and prison overstays, and engaging in interventions to ease this. CHRI also advocates for reviving prison oversight systems that have completely failed. We believe that attention to these areas will bring improvements to the administration of prisons as well as have a knock-on effect on the administration of justice overall.
Contemporary Forms of Slavery: CHRI urges Commonwealth member States to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 8.7, that is, to eradicate contemporary forms of slavery. CHRI’s activities include awareness raising and research aimed to assess government progress in achieving this target. CHRI advocates for solutions based on coordinated global responses involving governments, inter-governmental institutions, private sector actors, civil society and survivors, and which includes increased sharing of data and information both within and across borders. CHRI founded the international Commonwealth 8.7 Network, which includes over 60 local civil society organisations that share a common vision to eradicate contemporary forms of slavery. This Network serves as a knowledge-sharing platform, and works collaboratively and through partnerships to build capacity, provide support to survivors, and advocate for change to laws and policies.
International Advocacy and Programming: The IAP team monitors Commonwealth states’ compliance with human rights commitments and obligations, and advocates for their strengthening. It strategically engages with regional and global mechanisms, and regularly advocates for reform within the Commonwealth and for a stronger response from international human rights mechanisms to address human rights violations and abuses. CHRI reviews Commonwealth members’ human rights commitments at UN forums; monitors the performance of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) in the Commonwealth while advocating for their strengthening. It also presses for the protection of human rights defenders and activists, journalists, and civil society space.
South Asia Media Defenders Network (SAMDEN): South Asia has a poor record in the areas of freedom of speech and expression - the space for voicing dissenting opinions is shrinking, gradually but alarmingly. With an increasing number of attacks against the press, in late 2017 CHRI launched the South Asia Media Defenders Network (SAMDEN) to monitor, address and mobilise to resolve, the challenges faced by journalists in the region. SAMDEN’s core group includes eminent professionals such as such as Bangladesh’s Mahfuz Anam of the Daily Star, Kanak Mani Dixit of Himal in Nepal, Salil Tripathi, chair of PEN's unit on journalists in prison, Mrinal Pande, veteran editor and author, John Zubrzycki (a Sydney-based journalist and author specialising in South Asia), Siddharth Varadarajan, founding editor of The Wire, and Sanjoy Hazarika, former correspondent for the New York Times and now International Director at CHRI, among several others.
Where We Work
HEADQUARTERS - NEW DELHI, INDIA
Originally set up in London in 1987, CHRI was registered in New Delhi in 1993. Recognizing the changing geopolitical dynamics at the time, CHRI decided to establish its roots as an international organization in the global South and this is currently where our headquarters lie.
Today, CHRI is a well-established, and reputable organisation. From the New Delhi headquarters, we coordinate with our Accra and London offices as we advocate for the practical realization of human rights in all Commonwealth countries. Our primary mandate is to promote awareness of and adherence to the Harare Principles, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other internationally recognised human rights instruments, standards and declarations made by the Commonwealth Heads of Government, as well as domestic instruments supporting human rights in the Commonwealth. This mandate permits us to make strategic interventions in the focus areas of the India office: Access to Information and Access to Justice.
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM
CHRI’s London office is uniquely positioned to influence human rights through a network of Commonwealth bodies. CHRI London engages with the Commonwealth Secretariat, other Commonwealth institutions and organisations, as well as member States through their diplomatic missions in London. We focus on holding the Commonwealth to account on human rights commitments; amplifying the work of CHRI through Commonwealth liaison; and strengthening the Commonwealth’s core concern for human rights.
These priorities build upon the strong record of CHRI London, since our activism during the Nigerian dictatorships of the 1990s, and more recently through our influence in relation to post-conflict Sri Lanka, as well as leading advocacy for Commonwealth action on the deteriorating situation in the Maldives, which was key to the Maldives inclusion on the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group Agenda.
CHRI London also leads our programme aimed to eradicate Contemporary Forms of Slavery, and is the founder of and Secretariat to the Commonwealth 8.7 Network.
The Accra office of CHRI leads the organisation’s work in Commonwealth African countries. It has
, since its inception in 2001, focused on ensuring transparency and accountability in governance and rule of law. CHRI’s Africa Office focuses on Access to Justice and Access to Information.
The office was set up with the aim of paying greater attention to the 15 Commonwealth countries in the continent. Ghana, a stable, democratic and increasingly influential African Commonwealth country, was a natural choice and a good fit for the base for this work.
In Ghana, CHRI Africa has spearheaded the formation of a Coalition on the Right to Information with membership from the National Media Commission, religious bodies, non-governmental organisations, the Ghana Bar Association and journalists. The coalition meets regularly to brainstorm on direction of its advocacy and to exchange information on the issue. A significant victory for the coalition came on 22 May 2019 when Ghanian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo gave assent to the Right to Information Act.
The CHRI Africa office also works towards the establishment of an Independent Police Complaints Commission/Authority (IPCC) since 2005. Part of its current advocacy is centred around re-activating and sustaining the debate on the need for an IPCC in Ghana, and increasing citizen awareness and participation in its discourse. To this end, it has conducted research on IPCC models around the world, and engaged CSOs and stakeholders.