Documenting Human Rights Violations in Challenging Environments

The first step in any risk assessment is to analyze the context in which you are operating. Start by asking yourself some questions about your collection project. What are the most important issues at stake in your documentation process? Who are the key figures and why are they interested in these issues? How might your work affect these actors, both negatively and positively? Is the environment you are operating in safe enough to carry out the work you have proposed? Has anyone carried out any similar activities in the past? How did local/national authorities or others respond to previous work on these issues? How will you react if targeted by any of these actors?

By asking yourself these questions, you can start to gain an understanding of the environment you are operating in, which will allow you to identify precautionary measures to take either in advance of or during your collection efforts.

Force-Field Analysis

A force-field analysis can be a helpful tool for analyzing your operating environment and visualizing a risk assessment. Using this method, you can identify how key figures might help or hinder you in achieving your documentation objectives. To conduct a force-field analysis, first identify your objectives. Why do you want to collect this type of information and what do you plan to do with it? Based on the political and social sensitivities of your topic, make a list of supporting and resisting forces. Then write a list of security problems that might arise from the resisting forces. Finally, write down ways you can leverage your supporting forces to reduce or eliminate risk.