KHRC’s theory of change is borne in the belief and approach that communities themselves must define, claim and defend their rights. It is by working with communities at their own level, on what is of value to them and enabling them to understand, articulate and claim their rights, that they can effectively hold duty bearers accountable. The Commission’s role in translating this theory into human rights gains for individuals and communities is to facilitate, stimulate, catalyze and support community struggles and link them into networks for wider struggles thus supporting the emergence of a national constituency of human rights defenders with leverage to cause significant reforms for citizens to exercise their rights.
We believe that this is the most promising way of creating a sustainable momentum, and ultimately widespread culture of respect and protection of human rights of and by all people and institutions.
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 realize the goal.
Lessons learnt in this phase led to KHRC’s strategic decision to make additional investment in Community-based programming strategies. Refl ections 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).