The International Community Action Network (ICAN) was founded as the McGill Middle East Program (MMEP)in 1997, committed to the belief that the reduction of inequality and the promotion of civil society and social justice are intricately related to peace building and security. The program utilizes an approach called “Rights-Based Community Practice” (RBCP), developed and tested in Montreal (where it has continued to be utilized for more than 30 years) and adapted to the Middle Eastern context.
The combined effect of community relationship building and a rights based approach are central to this program. At the heart of the program is the concept that social work and law – two disciplines concerned with notions of rights and relationships – work in concert to promote the rule of law among people of diversity both within and between different social groups.
All RBCP Centres maintain an interdisciplinary approach, employing both social workers and lawyers. By situating their offices at street-level (storefronts) in the heart of disadvantaged communities, the centres promote inclusiveness among diverse residents, simply by virtue of their location. A broad array of social and legal interventions such as housing and legal rights and rehabilitation, youth empowerment and education, programs for women victims of violence, care and access for the disabled, sick and elderly, referral services, outreach, public education, government policy research and more, ultimately lead to individual and community empowerment. The principles of accessibility, reciprocity, universality and inclusion provide the guiding ideology, and are advanced through all of the activities undertaken.
The challenge in each place where we work is to empower citizens to take charge of their lives with the means available locally, leading to local ownership of the development process.