What Should Organized Human Rights Activism in Africa Become? Contributory Insights from a Comparison of NGOs and Labor-Led Movements in Nigeria

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Buffalo Human Rights Law Review. Volume 16 (2010), p. 113-154.


What, if anything, might the significantly greater success of Labor-led human rights movements in Nigeria, as compared to the performance of the self-described human rights NGOs that also operate in that country, tell us about the ways to optimize organized human rights activism in Nigeria, and perhaps in the rest of the African continent? This is the central question that animates this article. After a review of the character of and modes of struggle employed by, both kinds of human rights groups, the article argues that the important institutional and conceptual differences that exist between Labor and the NGOs explain in significant measure their differential performance at the task of exerting influence on the human rights character and behavior of state and society in Nigeria. It also suggests that since the more these human rights groups of different kinds have been constituted, organized and oriented in particular ways, the more they have been able to positively impact society and state in Nigeria, organized human rights activists in that country who are desirous of optimizing their impact will do well to take note of these proven paths to greater success. The article ends by suggesting that, given the tenor of existing work by other scholars, similarly situated human rights groups in other countries on the African continent might also do well to take this in- sight seriously - but only as a guide/resource for further thought and action in those other contexts.

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