Peer-Reviewed Journal Details
Mandatory Fields
M. O'Flaherty
2009
September
Journal of Human Rights Practice
The Professionalization of Human Rights Field Work
Published
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Optional Fields
ethics human rights field work professionalization
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Increasingly, the categories of professionalism are being employed to describe human rights work. Within the broader category of ‘human rights professionals’, a significant sub-group, that of field-based human rights staff of intergovernmental organizations, has been subject to particular scrutiny. This article explores issues of the professionalization of this group, while drawing implications for all human rights field workers. Following a brief overview of the history of human rights field operations, the question is raised: what is at stake in a process of professionalization? Next, it is asked whether those components identified as central to the development of a profession – shared values, a body of scientific knowledge, and procedures and systems to apply that knowledge – exist in a reasonably well-defined form with reference to human rights work. We then take stock of the extent to which these components have come together in generating an actual sense of professional identity and a culture of professionalism. In conclusion, some remaining challenges are identified and suggestions are made for measures that may contribute to reinforcing the existing momentum and further consolidating the profession.
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