In our formative years (1992-1997), we focused on monitoring, documenting and publicizing human rights violations. In this phase, we established ourselves as a vibrant advocate for civil and political rights in Kenya, through direct action protests and offering support for redress to victims and survivors of human rights violations. We also distinguished ourselves by linking human rights struggles with the need for reforms in political leadership and institutions.
From 1998-2003, we expanded our advocacy strategy to include social and economic rights. We made a radical shift in approach in this phase that led us to begin developing capabilities of those affected by human rights problems to advocate for their rights. To do this, we invested in community based Human Rights Education (HRE) and shifted our advocacy approach from ‘reactive, ad-hoc, one-off’ activism to more nuanced processes, with more strategic design, participation of those affected by specific human rights violations and targeting reforms at policy and legislative levels.
We needed a more systematic way of working. This made it necessary for us to develop our first Strategic Plan, which covered 1999-2003. The thrust of this plan was to develop competencies at community level for citizens to identify and deal with human rights violations, without depending on our previous interventionist orientation. We defined our role in this period as a facilitator of community struggles. Capacity building in HRE, monitoring and documentation of human rights violations and human rights advocacy were the main tools to realise the goal.
Lessons learnt in this phase led to KHRC’s strategic decision to make additional investment in community-based programming strategies. Reflections on the previous plan strongly concluded there was promise for the realisation of a Kenya without human rights violations if we put more effort and emphasis in stimulating community capacity to institute change from below. This decision led to the development of the Vision 2012 Strategy Paper and the second Strategic Plan (2004-2008).
In the 2004-2008 Strategic Plan, we focused on strategies and actions aimed at enhancing community driven human rights advocacy, through building of the capacities of citizens to deal with their immediate human rights concerns as well as engage in strategic actions to transform structures responsible for human rights violations. Human rights-centred governance was the overriding theme of this strategic plan, under the banner of rooting human rights in communities. This phase thus also saw the Commission engage in “neo-rights” programming focusing on trade, business, investment, natural resources, labour rights and sexual and reproductive health rights.
From inception, we have engaged in grassroots and national level organising for human rights and democratic governance. We have registered milestones in facilitating local community struggles to national and international spaces, with clear analyses and actions identifying and targeting local to global structural sources of the violations. Struggles for labour rights and fair trade practices, land rights struggles by indigenous communities and campaigns against impunity are examples of areas where we have realised local to national and national to international linkages.
In our current the four-year Strategic Plan (2008-2012), we have continued to consolidate our experiences and successes to expand the impact of our work and play an active role in procuring citizen-led reforms towards a more just, democratic and human rights-respecting Kenyan society.