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The International Council’s mission and approach


The ICHRP’s mission was to ensure that human rights principles and standards emerged as significant drivers of national and global public policy. To this end, our overall goal was to enhance the footprint of human rights on public policy by, on the one hand, helping policy makers address important issues from a human rights point of view, and on the other to identify and clarify emerging policy challenges in a way that would enable the human rights community to fashion meaningful responses.

Method and approach

The ICHRP set out to do practical research in the field of human rights that was independent, international, multidisciplinary and consultative. The work sought to blend the bold and change-driven concerns that fuel human rights activism, the pragmatic and institutional concerns underpinning policy-making, and the analytical rigour of scholarship. It aimed to stimulate co-operation and exchange across the non-governmental, governmental and intergovernmental sectors, and strove to mediate between competing perspectives. Thus, the ICHRP approach, while multi-disciplinary and international, was characterised by the ability to convene, as equals, actors with differing viewpoints and geo-political orientations.

The ICHRP interpreted “human rights” broadly, not confining its mandate to a purely legal understanding. Much of its work was pragmatic rather than normative and often looked at how institutions actually behave, rather than at how they ought to be constructed. It was also willing to think “outside the box”, recognising that one of its most important roles was to provoke fresh thinking, address areas of contradiction and emerging issues, and “imagine” the future evolution of human rights work.

All the research had a practical focus on issues that organisations working operationally on human rights considered to need attention, and projects were designed to generate practical and useful findings. Theoretical work was undertaken when it had practical use; for example, where theoretical difficulties were hampering human rights work.

The ICHRP did not undertake work on specific cases of human rights violations or monitoring, instead identifying issues that impede the promotion and protection of human rights across the globe, and proposing approaches and strategies that would advance that purpose. National or local fieldwork was undertaken to support the broader research.

While the ICHRP was firmly independent of governments and inter-governmental agencies, and voluntary and private sector organisations, it worked closely with such bodies in the pursuit of its research objectives. A large number of bi-lateral agencies and private foundations supported the ICHRP but funding was always sought for pre-designed research projects; the organisation never undertook commissioned research.

Generating and sustaining the trust of the many groups of people with whom it co-operated was central to the work of the ICHRP. Being transparent in its approach to research, consultation, reporting and follow-up was paramount. Its methodology relied on a model of progressive international consultation and aimed to involve target audiences increasingly as the research process advanced. Initially, the work was done by a small group of experts. However, as research continued more people with skills or responsibility in the area concerned were consulted about drafts (which were made available on the website for comment), research findings and recommendations. The process was always an open one. At each stage, the consultation was designed to cover more institutions and individuals from across the world and take account of their feedback. The aim was to enable a widening circle of people with a direct interest to engage with the content of the research, to improve it, to acquire a sense of ownership over the findings, and finally to support or promote them – leading to practical action informed by sound research.