Human Rights Information and Documentation Systems, International (HURIDOCS) launched when computers were barely used, and human rights defenders struggled to organise their information (a challenge that persists to this day).
1979 – A group of movement leaders meets outside Paris to discuss how human rights defenders can take advantage of information and communication technologies (ICT) that commercial companies and government agencies are developing. The group resolves to create an international network to explore this challenge, forming what will become HURIDOCS.
1982 – Famed British human rights activist Martin Ennals leads HURIDOCS’ founding assembly in Strasbourg, France. Close to 80 activists convene from every region of the globe. Ennals tells the assembly:
“The rapid increase of interest in human rights coincides with the rapid development of information technology. Unless a common and universal system of communication is evolved, valuable information will be wasted, existing international machinery will not function, and implementation will not be monitored.”
HURIDOCS Founding President (1927-1991)
1980s – HURIDOCS pioneers applying information science to the field of human rights. Early milestones include building a universal terminology on how to classify and organise human rights information, and developing methodological tools and standards.
1990s – Groups based in the Global South ask how organisations can successfully document human rights violations. HURIDOCS helps develop and evolve the “Who Did What to Whom” events-methodology for reporting crimes by representing the relationship between victim and perpetrator.
2000s – HURIDOCS creates OpenEvsys, an open source software tool for documenting human rights violations, and develops indicators to track violations of economic, social and cultural rights. Recognising that standard methodologies and tools do not address every need of a diverse global movement, HURIDOCS pilots customised capacity-building work with human rights organisations.
2010s – HURIDOCS continues to deliver direct capacity-building to human rights defenders worldwide, and introduces two new open source solutions: Casebox for managing human rights litigation documents and tasks, and Uwazi for curating, annotating and sharing document collections. The HURIDOCS Collaboratory opens a space for human rights practitioners, information wranglers and technologists to share knowledge, questions and experience on information challenges.
The View from Here
In the years since 1982, information formats, uses to which data are put, and technologies have transformed. Other things have not changed. Human rights defenders continue to rely on information for advocacy and litigation. That information continues to be difficult and dangerous for them to obtain. Too often, that hard-won information continues to be siloed or trapped.
Just publishing datasets is not enough. To achieve real impact that lasts, HURIDOCS seeks to build a culture of thinking about and acting strategically on information in the human rights world.