Domestic Dignity

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A Report by The Korematsu Institute at the Asian Law Caucus

In the past decade, activists, funders and policymakers in search of more effective perspectives and tools to create positive social change in their communities have increasingly turned to human rights tools. These tools such as fact-finding, litigation, organizing and advocacy in reference to international human rights law and norms, had previously been employed by U.S.-based activists working in international contexts, but had not been applied closer to home in U.S. communities and jurisdictions.

A number of successful examples have emerged of organizations using these tools in an effective effort to reduce poverty, promote workers’ rights and environmental justice, abolish the death penalty and end discrimination. Many questions remain, however, about the effectiveness of human rights frameworks as communications and organizing strategies. For the most part, Asian American social justice advocacy groups have not mobilized these frameworks as organizing, advocacy or litigation tools.

Furthermore, the role of these strategies for Asian American advocacy groups may play out differently than it does for other types of organizations. On the one hand, immigrant constituencies and advocates from certain countries may bring to the U.S. a fluency in human rights frameworks and a perspective of social justice that is more interconnected and international. On the other hand, human rights concepts can be alienating to immigrants from Communist regimes in Asia.

To further our mission on leadership development in Asian American communities, the Korematsu Institute is seeking to understand how human rights tools can be an effective resource for emerging leaders, especially in immigrant communities. We are excited to share our initial findings with you in this report.

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