Arts and Human Rights Projects

This page provides information on arts and human rights based projects run by creative organisations in Ireland and around the world. The aim is to raise awareness of key projects and key texts created by artists to promote human rights.

These can range from the Pulitzer Prize winner Ariel Dorfman’s powerful and haunting play, Speak Truth to Power, Voices from Beyond the Dark, which was inspired by the accounts of 50 heroic human rights activists chronicling horrific human rights abuses around the world, to Women War and Peace, a transnational project implemented by Smashing Times, Ireland, in partnership with organisations from Spain, Germany and Poland, to local, national and international work by artists and arts organisations in Ireland and internationally.

The overall aim is to showcase stories of human rights, gender equality and peace-building with a focus on celebrating human rights stories from multiple perspectives through film, video, interactive digital displays, artefacts and works of art, exploring diverse human rights stories through artistic processes.

Arts and Human Rights Projects

Smashing Times’ Women in an Equal Europe

Women in an Equal Europe uses a feminist framework and creative processes of theatre, film and online digital resources to reflect on the experiences of women living in Europe and the power of EU policy to promote gender equality and human rights. This transnational civil society project involves four partners from Ireland, Spain, Croatia and Serbia and uses creative processes of theatre and film and online resources to promote a greater understanding of women’s rights and the positive changes that have come about in relation to gender equality as a result of belonging to the European Union. For more information on the project, visit here.

Smashing Times’ Drama for Change Project

Drama for Change was a three-year partnership project run with five European partners from Ireland, Germany, Bulgaria, Spain and the Netherlands. The project used creative methods to develop a new training curriculum for adult educators using the arts to promote anti-racism, gender equality and diversity, and was funded by Erasmus+.

Drama for Change brought together a cross-sector of European organisations that work with marginalised groups in adult education. The aim was to develop a training Curriculum and Toolbox of Resources, available online and in digital format, to provide adult educators, teachers and artists with the skills necessary to work with adults through a creative medium, using drama and theatre to promote anti-racism, gender equality and diversity. Drama for Change addressed a gap in training for adult educators using creative processes to address issues of rising inequality and racism, and the lack of inclusion for marginalised groups. For more information on the project, visit here.

Speak Truth to Power Project: the Curriculum, the Play and the Robert F. Kennedy Centre

Speak Truth To Power, a project of the Robert F. Kennedy Centre for Justice and Human Rights, is a multi-faceted global initiative that uses the experiences of courageous defenders from around the world to educate students and others about human rights, and urge them to take action. Issues range from slavery and environmental activism to religious self-determination and political participation.

Speak Truth To Power began as a book written by Kerry Kennedy (since translated into 6 languages with more coming) and has been adapted into a dramatic production by Ariel Dorfman. The portraits of the human rights defenders by the late Pulitzer-Prize-winning photographer Eddie Adams featured in the book have been made into an exhibition that has toured over twenty cities in the United States after its initial launch at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. It is now displayed on four continents. For more information on the project, visit here.

Art Works Projects

ART WORKS’ Projects’ mission is to use design and the arts to raise awareness of and educate the public about significant human rights issues. ART WORKS provides visual advocacy tools which produce action on human rights crises at the grassroots, media, and policy levels.

Conceptualised and created in conjunction with established humanitarian and human rights advocacy organisations, ART WORKS’ art and design exhibitions, books, recordings, films, and other initiatives provide opportunities for large numbers of the general population to engage in ending major human rights violations. ART WORKS’ agenda includes projects exposing genocide, extreme sexual violence, women’s rights, famine, child labour and human trafficking, ethnic cleansing and tyranny. ART WORKS selects topics which are the most intractable, the least covered in the mainstream media, and the most abusive for victims. For more information on the project, visit here.

DAH Theatre’s In/Visible City Project

Starting from the fact that countries and cities today are (as it was in the past) multi-ethnic states with many inhabitants of different origin and culture, and that the awareness of that fact has faded in the last decade due to the crisis and wars that created multi-ethnic conflicts, we have created a project that promotes human rights and makes the culture of different ethnic communities that make the population of diverse minorities more visible.

The main goal of the project In/Visible City was to make the multi-ethnic structure of the cities and the richness of different ethnic cultures more visible. To re-discover what has become hidden, even though it has been part of our culture for centuries.

In/Visible City reflects on the positive aspects of our cultural and national differences, on the history of the cities that were created by many nations that have interwoven into it their culture, customs and achievements. Through performances on public buses that ‘tell’ the multi ethnic history of the cities, the project contributes to the normalisation of relationships between different ethnic communities and to the development of a civil society that is based on tolerance. The positive reactions of the audience and public affirm that the citizens of Serbia needed this action. For more information on the project, visit here.

Creating Rights Project

Creating Rights is a non-profit organisation seeking to foster a reflection on human rights, international justice, and humanitarian issues through artistic and cultural productions. To do so, Creating Rights offers a platform with information on projects and professionals working on these issues, and provides support to such projects.

Creating Rights was founded with the idea that art as a medium provides the subtlety and the perspective to analyse and discuss issues pertaining to human rights, international law, and justice. The interdisciplinarity of Creating Rights’ work allows for such issues to be exposed and explored outside of the traditional and professionalised frameworks they are developed in, thereby opening up a dialogue beyond national and thematic borders.

The mission of Creating Rights is to foster a reflection on these subjects and thereby to deepen actions in these domains by giving visibility to artists and human rights practitioners. For this purpose, Creating Rights supports projects led by artists, human rights activists, academics and law practitioners exploring human rights and transitional justice issues through art. It does so by giving them visibility or by providing assistance such as knowledge and expertise in the fields of human rights, international humanitarian law, international criminal justice, or transitional justice in general. For more information on the project, visit here.

Art for Human Rights

‘Art for Human Rights’ is part of a broader project: ‘Building Up Human Values through Art’, which is the result of a collaborative relationship among four European schools with specialisms in art for students aged 16-18. The project aims to promote the values of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The art students will develop art works related with human rights using ICT media. For more information on the project, visit here.

International Human Rights Art Festival

The International Human Rights Art Festival is an ongoing series of art-activist events, festivals, workshops, and community programs at the intersection of art, advocacy, and society. At each of our events, we bring together social and political leaders and the general public to challenge audiences through sincerity, beauty and talent, to imagine a better way and help implement a more open-minded, inclusive and caring world. For more information on the project, visit here.

Art for Amnesty

Art for Amnesty is a global community of artists of all disciplines and nationalities who share Amnesty International’s vision of a world where human rights are enjoyed by all. They comprise of the world’s storytellers, those willing to shine a light on injustice by using visual or fine art, film, literature, poetry, music, photography, design or performance to express what it means to be human. Art for Amnesty has a growing programme of projects and events, including Amnesty International’s top honour, the Ambassador of Conscience Award, recognising those who have shown exceptional leadership in the fight for human rights, through their life and work. For more information on the project, visit here.

Other Human Rights Projects

ENAR Ireland’s Love Not Hate Campaign for Hate Crime Legislation

This campaign is run by Action Against Racism, a group of people from diverse minority ethnic backgrounds who are committed to justice, equality and an Ireland where racism and hate have no place. They are working with ENAR Ireland and its allies to fight racism, and to campaign for the introduction of Hate Crime Legislation, within the broader context of a renewed National Action Plan Against Racism. For more information on the project, visit here.

I Welcome, Amnesty International’s Movement for Welcoming Refugees

Around the world, individuals are doing simple things to make newcomers feel welcome in their communities. We live in a world where people have no option but to flee their homes and countries – and rely on the kindness of strangers to help them start again. Our governments aren’t doing enough. Many are holding these refugees in unsafe camps on borders, and refusing help to millions of others. I Welcome is a movement of people uniting to welcome refugees in their own ways. Whether it’s by adding your voice to a petition, taking action locally, or something unique to you. For more information on the project, visit here.

Amnesty International’s Mental Health Campaign

In 2003, Amnesty International Ireland began its campaign on mental health in Ireland with a series of reports, Mental Illness: The Neglected Quarter. These reports outlined concerns at the treatment in Ireland of people with mental health problems, and measures them against international human rights standards. The campaign had two objectives: to raise political and public awareness that mental health is a neglected human rights issue; and to get a new government mental health policy that was human rights based and cross-departmental.

In 2006, the Irish Government committed itself to a new blueprint for mental health, A Vision for Change. It promised reform of mental health in Ireland and a person centred approach. Amnesty International Ireland called for Government action to implement this policy and to address the chronic under-funding in mental health in order for reforms to happen. The organisation published a policy briefing that set out a blueprint for how A Vision for Change should be implemented, and also co-founded the Irish Mental Health Coalition, which later became Mental Health Reform.

Between late 2008 until June 2013, Amnesty International Ireland stepped up its campaigning work on mental health and human rights. The organisation used the human rights framework to demand action from the government, seeking a social approach in response to mental health that is focused on people’s rights, in particular the right to live a full life in the community and the right to choice in treatment. For more information on the project, visit here.

Human Rights and Democracy Network’s Campaign Stand4HumanRightsDefenders

Defending the international interests of the EU and its member states cannot be dissociated from the defence of human rights in the world. Authoritarian governments are investing huge efforts and resources to close down, silence, restrict and discredit human rights defenders and independent civil society critical of government policies. This is a crucial political moment.

We need a more consistent and credible political response from the EU, which has made the protection of human rights defenders at risk one of its key priorities. It must renew and reinvigorate this commitment with: a higher profile political leadership, a consistent strategy that integrates an effective priority for the protection of human rights defenders across a number of policy areas, and sustained practical support to those under attack on the front line.

HRDN will press the EU to work on a number of areas in the coming months, with concrete proposals on ways to apply the Action Plan on Human Rights Democracy: from how to identify whether HRDs are being arbitrarily harassed, to better public diplomacy and how to respond to the closing space for civil society; and with a regular focus on cases of human rights defenders at risk that needs the EU’s immediate attention. For more information on the project, please visit here.

UN Free and Equal: The United Nation’s Global Campaign Against Homophobia and Transphobia

More than a third of the world’s countries criminalise consensual, loving same-sex relationships, entrenching prejudice and putting millions of people at risk of blackmail, arrest and imprisonment. Many countries force transgender people to undergo medical treatment, sterilisation or meet other onerous preconditions before they can obtain legal recognition of their gender identity. Intersex children are often subjected to unnecessary surgery, causing physical and psychological pain and suffering. In many cases, a lack of adequate legal protections combined with hostile public attitudes leads to widespread discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people – including workers being fired from jobs, students bullied and expelled from schools, and patients denied essential healthcare.

In July 2013, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) launched UN Free & Equal – an unprecedented global UN public information campaign aimed at promoting equal rights and fair treatment of LGBTI people. In 2017, UN Free & Equal reached 2.4 billion social media feeds around the world and generated a stream of widely shared materials – including powerful videos, impactful graphics and plain-language fact sheets. Several campaign videos – including a popular Bollywood-themed clip ‘The Welcome’ – rank among the most watched videos ever produced by the United Nations. National UN Free & Equal campaigns and events have been organised in almost 30 countries, with visible support from UN, political, community and religious leaders and from celebrities in all regions of the world. For more information on the project, visit here.

Girl Up, the United Nations Foundation’s Adolescent Girl Campaign

Girls are powerful. When they’re educated, healthy, and safe, they transform their communities. When girls stand up for girls in need, they empower each other and transform our world. As the United Nations Foundation’s adolescent girl campaign, Girl Up engages girls to take action. Led by a community of nearly half a million passionate advocates raising awareness and funds, our efforts help the hardest to reach girls living in places where it is hardest to be a girl. For more information on the project, visit here.

NUI Galway’s Irish Centre for Human Rights’ European Union Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA)

The Irish Centre for Human Rights (ICHR), NUI Galway, in collaboration with project partner the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), won a major EU contract for Irish Law and Social Data Research and has become Ireland’s new national focal point for the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA). This is the first time that the prestigious FRANET-Ireland contract for data collection and research services on fundamental rights issues in Ireland has been awarded to an Irish University-led bid.

FRANET is the FRA’s multidisciplinary research network. It is composed of contractors in each of the 28 EU Member States who provide relevant data to FRA on fundamental rights issues, to facilitate the Agency’s comparative analyses. This work of the FRA then informs EU policy and initiatives across the EU member States. The ICHR will work over the coming years to ensure that the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency has legally accurate and up-to-date information about the state of human rights in Ireland. The ICHR also looks forward to spreading the word about the important evidence-based research published by the FRA.

Research focuses on a number of thematic areas. These include: access to justice; victims of crime, including compensation to victims; respect for private life and protection of personal data; Roma integration; judicial cooperation; rights of the child; discrimination; asylum, immigration and borders; racism, xenophobia and related intolerance. For more information on the project, visit here.