Rights-Based Community Practice (RBCP)
In the RBCP approach, the means are as important as the ends: the right of low income people to participate in processes and decisions that affect their lives, as individuals and communities, is as important as gaining access to the rights themselves.
The practice of human rights advocacy is linked to law and community organizations. Overall, the premise is that every person holds the same rights. Rights based community practice seeks to ensure the rule of law, increasing access to fundamental rights and entitlements. This requires a process of empowerment; a process whereby persons gain ability to influence relationships and to act independently. These relationships are personal, communal, institutional and political. Appropriate tools of empowerment to each level are essential elements of a model of human rights based practice.
|Level||Disentitlement||Tools of Empowerment|
|Individual||Expressed when people believe, act or feel that they do not deserve equal treatment, that benefits and rights do not apply to them, and that they lack the resources or capacity to stand up for themselves.||Tools and resources are both internal and external. Internally they relate to personal power, self-confidence, trust and identity, which reflect inner strength and personal security. External resources are money, goods and services, legitimacy, information and status.|
|Communal||Occurs when the majority of persons constituting the same reference group do not receive sufficient resources or are excluded from influencing decisions that affect their collective welfare. Disentitled communities are those wherein people are alienated from each other as well as from their institutions. It creates a context that fosters fundamentalism and violence.||Organizing around issues that unite people rather than issues that divide them, developing democratic, autonomous organizations.|
|Institutional||Deals with issues of access and bureaucratic discretion as forms of rationing which limit the availability of resources. People are unable to access entitlements that were made available to them by law. The barriers can be either physical (distance, lack of resources) or psychological, cultural. This state is particularly experienced by the poor, elderly, unemployed, immigrants, etc.||Ensuring access, outreach, and participation in decision-making processes.|
|Political||Occurs in relation to laws and regulations that are discriminatory, contain arbitrary restrictions and privilege certain groups. When people lack opportunities to shape and influence events, to participate in decisions relating to their fundamental welfare, beliefs and aspirations, they become alienated from the society around them.||People become participants in decisions that affect them and are able to influence those decisions.|
The eleven RBCP centres currently in operation were developed in cooperation with ICAN's Palestinian, Israeli, and Jordanian partners. They were established in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the three societies, and though autonomous, they function under a shared conceptual umbrella.
Common practice structures that characterize the centres:
- They are located in the most disadvantaged and the most ethnically diverse communities in their respective cities. The centre’s location makes access for the poorest populations, those most disentitled, readily available.
- The centres offer walk-in services to address personal experiences of disentitlement. The service is offered primarily by volunteers from the community, many of whom have themselves experienced disentitlement and been assisted by the centres.
- The centres are volunteer-based. Community volunteers participate in decision making processes that impact on the policies of the practice centres, allowing for civilian oversight at different levels of policy and programming.
- The centres maintain a combined approach employing both social workers and lawyers, allowing non-state actors to take legal ownership and enhance civilian oversight of the legal system.
- The centres engage in outreach work to identify common legal and social issues of disentitlement and recruit the community and volunteers to organize around them.
- The centres counter communal, institutional and political levels of disentitlement through community organization, legal action and empowerment.
- Finally, the centres are academically linked, providing community residents with academic and institutional resources, and universities with progressive learning environments for community practice, research and volunteering.
The International Community Action Network (ICAN), formerly known as the McGill Middle East Program (MMEP), is committed to the belief that social justice is the most reliable foundation for strong, healthy societies.