Trending: Call for Papers Volume 4 | Issue 4: International Journal of Advanced Legal Research [ISSN: 2582-7340]



Protests have long served as a powerful tool for social change, galvanizing individuals and communities to challenge oppressive systems and advocate for justice. In recent years, activism has gained significant traction, with movements like Black Lives Matter, climate activism, and LGBTQ+ rights advocacy capturing global attention. This paper examines the profound impact of activism on human rights, exploring the power of protests as catalysts for social change. The objective is to shed light on the historical and contemporary significance of activism in advancing human rights, while also considering the mechanisms through which activism brings about change. The paper assesses the broad impact of activism on human rights, encompassing legislative reforms, social and cultural transformation, advancement of marginalized groups’ rights, and international recognition. Finally, the paper explores the future of activism, considering emerging trends, potential strategies for effective activism, the role of technology and youth engagement, and its implications for future research. By examining the power of protests, this paper underscores the vital role of activism in shaping and safeguarding human rights.

Keywords: Protests, Activism, Human Rights, Social Transformation, Mechanisms of Change


Throughout history, activism has emerged as a powerful force for social change and the protection of human rights. Activism is deeply rooted in the desire for justice, equality, and the recognition of the inherent dignity of all individuals. From grassroots movements to global campaigns, activists have challenged oppressive systems, fought against discrimination, and championed the rights of marginalized communities.

The significance of activism lies in its ability to amplify the voices of those who are often marginalized and unheard. Activists act as catalysts for change, drawing attention to societal issues that demand immediate action. They challenge the status quo, question existing power structures, and demand accountability from those in positions of authority. Activism serves as a reminder that progress is not a given, but rather a result of persistent efforts to challenge injustices and bring about meaningful change.[1]

Furthermore, activism has been instrumental in shaping the course of history. It has been at the forefront of major social movements that have transformed societies and dismantled discriminatory systems. The civil rights movement in the United States, led by figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, fought against racial segregation and inequality, leading to landmark legal reforms. The women’s suffrage movement fought for women’s right to vote and paved the way for gender equality advancements. The anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, with leaders like Nelson Mandela, successfully dismantled a system of racial segregation and oppression.

Activism also plays a vital role in raising awareness and mobilizing communities. Through protests, demonstrations, and advocacy campaigns, activists bring attention to pressing issues that often go unnoticed or are deliberately ignored. They galvanize public support, mobilize resources, and foster solidarity among diverse groups. By shedding light on human rights violations and societal injustices, activism sparks conversations and pushes for collective action.In today’s interconnected world, activism has gained even greater prominence through the use of social media and digital platforms. Online activism has allowed individuals from different corners of the world to connect, collaborate, and amplify their voices. Hashtags, viral campaigns, and online petitions have become powerful tools for raising awareness, organizing protests, and holding governments and corporations accountable.[2]

Understanding Activism and Human Rights

Activism refers to the intentional and organized efforts of individuals or groups to bring about social, political, or cultural change by challenging existing systems, policies, or norms. Activists typically engage in various activities such as protests, demonstrations, advocacy campaigns, lobbying, and community organizing. They work towards achieving a specific goal or addressing a particular issue that they believe is unjust or requires improvement. Activism can take many forms, including human rights activism, environmental activism, social justice activism, and more.

Human rights are of utmost importance in society for several compelling reasons[3]

  • Inherent Dignity: Human rights are based on the recognition of the inherent dignity and worth of every individual. They affirm that all individuals, regardless of their background or circumstances, possess inherent value and deserve to be treated with respect and fairness. Human rights ensure that no one is subjected to discrimination, exploitation, or degrading treatment solely because of who they are.
  • Protection and Security: Human rights provide a protective framework for individuals against abuse, oppression, and injustice. They serve as a shield against arbitrary actions by governments, institutions, or individuals that may infringe upon basic freedoms or harm individuals physically, emotionally, or psychologically. Human rights establish a legal and moral foundation to ensure that individuals can live free from fear and insecurity.
  • Social Justice and Equality: Human rights are instrumental in promoting social justice and equality. They recognize that all individuals should have equal opportunities, regardless of their gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or social status. Human rights demand that societies work towards eliminating discrimination, prejudice, and systemic inequalities, enabling individuals to access education, healthcare, employment, and participation in decision-making processes on an equal basis.
  • Rule of Law and Accountability: Human rights play a crucial role in upholding the rule of law and holding those in power accountable. They establish legal standards and principles that guide the behaviour of governments, institutions, and individuals. Human rights empower individuals to seek justice, challenge violations, and demand accountability when their rights are violated. By ensuring accountability, human rights contribute to the maintenance of a just and democratic society.

The link between activism and human rights extends beyond mere coincidence or shared objectives. It is rooted in the fundamental principles and values that underpin both concepts. Here are some key aspects of the link between activism and human rights[4]

  • Protection of Vulnerable and Marginalized Groups: Activism frequently focuses on addressing the needs and protecting the rights of vulnerable and marginalized groups. These groups may include ethnic and racial minorities, women, LGBTQ+ individuals, refugees, indigenous communities, and other marginalized populations. Human rights provide a framework to ensure that the rights and dignity of these groups are respected and protected. Activists play a crucial role in highlighting the specific challenges faced by marginalized communities and advocating for their inclusion, representation, and empowerment.
  • Catalyst for Legal and Policy Change: Activism has historically played a pivotal role in driving legal and policy reforms that uphold human rights. Through their advocacy efforts, activists push for changes in legislation, policies, and practices that perpetuate human rights violations. They engage with lawmakers, participate in public consultations, and mobilize public support to influence decision-making processes. Activism often leads to significant advancements in human rights protections, including the enactment of anti-discrimination laws, reforms in criminal justice systems, and the recognition of new rights.
  • International Solidarity and Cooperation: Activism transcends national borders and fosters international solidarity in the pursuit of human rights. Activists collaborate across borders, sharing knowledge, strategies, and resources to address global challenges. They leverage international mechanisms, such as human rights treaties and conventions, to hold governments accountable for their human rights obligations. Activism on a global scale puts pressure on governments and institutions, influencing policies and promoting human rights standards worldwide.

Mechanisms of Change in Activism

Public Awareness and Consciousness-Raising

Public awareness and consciousness-raising lie at the core of activism, serving as a critical mechanism for promoting human rights. By disseminating information, engaging in educational campaigns, and fostering dialogue, activists aim to ignite a sense of empathy, understanding, and urgency among the general public.[5]

  • Education and Information Dissemination: Activists recognize that knowledge is a powerful catalyst for change. They strive to provide accurate and accessible information about human rights violations, their causes, and potential solutions. Through public campaigns, workshops, educational materials, and online resources, activists aim to educate individuals about the fundamental principles of human rights and the specific issues at hand. By raising awareness about these issues, activists encourage individuals to critically examine their own biases, challenge societal norms, and actively contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights.
  • Media Engagement and Storytelling:Activists work closely with journalists, media outlets, and documentary filmmakers to amplify their message and ensure widespread coverage of human rights issues. Through interviews, documentaries, op-eds, and investigative journalism, activists strive to bring the stories of those impacted by human rights abuses into the public spotlight. By collaborating with media professionals, activists can shape narratives, challenge misconceptions, and influence public opinion. Media engagement also helps maintain a sustained focus on human rights concerns and holds accountable those responsible for violations.
  • Public Events and awareness campaigns: Activists organize public events, rallies, and awareness campaigns to engage with the broader community. These events provide platforms for dialogue, education, and advocacy. Public marches and demonstrations not only attract media attention but also demonstrate the collective power of individuals united for a common cause. Awareness campaigns may involve the use of billboards, posters, social media challenges, and viral campaigns to capture public attention and foster engagement.

Use of Media and Technology

The use of media and technology has significantly transformed the landscape of activism, providing activists with unprecedented tools to amplify their message, mobilize supporters, and create meaningful change. Through strategic utilization of media platforms and technology, activists can reach vast audiences, shape narratives, and generate public engagement.[6]

  • Social Media Platforms: Social media platforms have emerged as powerful tools for activists to disseminate information, raise awareness, and mobilize support. Activists can utilize platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube to share news, videos, images, and personal stories related to human rights violations. Hashtags and trending topics enable activists to create viral campaigns, generating widespread attention and driving conversations on critical issues.
  • Online Petitions and Campaigns: Online petitions have become a popular means for activists to mobilize support and gather signatures to demand change. Platforms like Change.org and Avaaz provide accessible avenues for activists to create and promote petitions, which can put pressure on decision-makers and institutions. Online campaigns, backed by strong social media presence, allow activists to raise awareness, rally supporters, and drive public discourse on human rights issues.
  • Digital Security and Online Anonymity: In an increasingly interconnected world, activists face risks and threats to their safety. Therefore, it is crucial for activists to employ digital security measures to protect their identities and sensitive information. Encryption tools, secure communication platforms, and anonymizing technologies help safeguard activists’ privacy and ensure their ability to continue their important work.
  • Live Streaming and Virtual Events: Activists have embraced live streaming technologies to broadcast protests, demonstrations, and events in real-time. Livestreams allow activists to reach global audiences, garner immediate attention, and counteract potential media biases. Additionally, virtual events, webinars, and online conferences enable activists to connect, share knowledge, and collaborate across geographic boundaries.

Legal and Policy Advocacy

Activists employ legal and policy advocacy strategies to effect systemic change, ensuring that human rights principles are enshrined in laws, policies, and international agreements.[7]

  • Litigation and Legal Action: Activists engage in strategic litigation to challenge discriminatory laws, seek justice for victims, and establish legal precedents. Through legal action, activists aim to hold perpetrators accountable and secure legal protections for marginalized communities.
  • Lobbying and Advocacy Campaigns: Activists lobby policymakers, government officials, and international bodies to enact or change laws and policies that promote human rights. They engage in advocacy campaigns that include letter-writing, public consultations, and meetings with policymakers to push for meaningful reforms.
  • International Human Rights Mechanisms: Activists engage with international human rights bodies and mechanisms to hold governments accountable for human rights violations. They submit reports, participate in hearings, and engage in advocacy at the United Nations and regional human rights bodies. By leveraging international frameworks and conventions, activists aim to exert pressure on governments to uphold their human rights obligations.
  • Policy Research and Analysis: Activists conduct rigorous policy research and analysis to identify gaps in existing laws and policies, and to propose evidence-based solutions. They collaborate with academics, researchers, and think tanks to generate data and reports that support their advocacy efforts. Through well-researched and informed policy recommendations, activists contribute to shaping more inclusive and rights-based policies.

The Role of International Organizations and Governments

United Nations and Human Rights

The United Nations (UN) plays a crucial role in promoting and protecting human rights globally. It has established various mechanisms and bodies to address human rights issues and ensure compliance with international standards. The key components of the UN system related to human rights include[8]

  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR): Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, the UDHR serves as a cornerstone document in the field of human rights. It outlines the fundamental rights and freedoms to which all individuals are entitled, providing a universal framework for human rights protection.
  • Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR): The OHCHR is the principal entity within the UN system that works to promote and protect human rights worldwide. It supports the implementation of human rights standards, provides technical assistance to states, and coordinates the work of other UN human rights bodies.
  • Human Rights Council: The Human Rights Council is an intergovernmental body responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights globally. It addresses human rights violations, conducts periodic reviews of states’ human rights records, and establishes special procedures to investigate specific human rights issues.
  • Treaty Bodies: The UN has established various treaty bodies that monitor the implementation of international human rights treaties. These bodies review states’ compliance with treaty obligations and issue recommendations to ensure effective protection of human rights.

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) play a crucial role in advancing human rights by advocating for change, providing assistance to affected communities, and holding governments accountable. They often operate independently of governments and can act as watchdogs to monitor human rights violations. Key roles and contributions of NGOs include[9]

  • Monitoring and Reporting: NGOs play a vital role in documenting and reporting human rights abuses. Through field research, investigations, and direct engagement with affected communities, they provide valuable information and evidence that can influence public opinion and prompt action from governments and international organizations.
  • Advocacy and Lobbying: NGOs engage in advocacy efforts to promote human rights, raise awareness, and influence policy-making processes. They often participate in international forums, such as the UN Human Rights Council, to advocate for specific human rights issues and hold states accountable for their actions or inaction.
  • Capacity Building and Assistance: NGOs provide support and assistance to marginalized communities, helping them understand their rights, access justice, and build their capacity to advocate for their rights. They offer legal aid, psychosocial support, education, and empowerment programs that contribute to the protection and promotion of human rights.
  • Collaboration and Networking: NGOs collaborate with other organizations, both locally and internationally, to amplify their impact. Through partnerships, they share resources, expertise, and best practices, enabling more effective advocacy and action on human rights issues.

States’ Response to Activism

The response of states to activism varies widely, ranging from support and cooperation to repression and resistance. Different governments have diverse approaches and attitudes towards activism based on their political, social, and cultural contexts. Some common state responses include[10]

  • Supportive and Collaborative: Some governments recognize the importance of activism and its role in raising awareness about human rights issues. They engage with activists, consult them in policy-making processes, and facilitate their work through legal frameworks, funding, and protection measures.
  • Restrictive and Repressive: In contrast, certain governments view activism as a threat to their authority or interests. They may employ various tactics to suppress activism, including harassment, intimidation, censorship, arbitrary arrests, and violence. Restrictive laws and regulations may be enacted to limit the activities of activists and civil society organizations.
  • Mixed Responses: Many states exhibit a mix of supportive and restrictive responses, depending on the specific issue or context. They may tolerate certain forms of activism while cracking down on others perceived as challenging their power or disrupting societal norms.

Collaborations and Conflicts

Collaborations and conflicts between international organizations, governments, and activists are common in the realm of human rights. These interactions can shape the outcomes of activism and influence human rights policies and practices. Some key dynamics include[11]

  • Collaborations: International organizations, governments, and activists often collaborate on human rights initiatives and campaigns. Governments may work with international organizations and NGOs to develop and implement policies, programs, and legal frameworks that promote and protect human rights. Such collaborations can enhance the impact of activism and contribute to positive change.
  • Conflicts and Tensions: Conflicts may arise when governments perceive activism as a challenge to their authority or policies. Activists and organizations advocating for human rights may face resistance, hostility, or repression from governments. Disagreements and conflicts can also occur within international organizations regarding their approaches, priorities, or responses to specific human rights issues.
  • Diplomacy and Negotiation: Diplomatic efforts play a role in resolving conflicts and advancing human rights. Governments and international organizations engage in negotiations, dialogue, and diplomatic pressure to address human rights abuses, resolve conflicts, and seek justice for victims.

Future of Activism and Human Rights

Emerging Trends and Issues

The future of activism and human rights is shaped by emerging trends and evolving challenges. Some significant trends and issues that are likely to impact activism in the future include[12]

  • Intersectionality: Activism is increasingly recognizing the interconnected nature of various social justice issues. Intersectionality acknowledges that individuals can face multiple forms of oppression based on their intersecting identities, such as race, gender, class, sexuality, and ability. Future activism is likely to prioritize intersectional approaches to address systemic inequalities and promote inclusive human rights advocacy.
  • Climate Justice: The urgency of addressing climate change and its impact on human rights is becoming increasingly evident. Future activism is expected to focus more on climate justice, emphasizing the need to protect vulnerable communities disproportionately affected by environmental degradation and advocating for sustainable and equitable solutions.
  • Technological Advancements: Technology will continue to shape activism, providing new tools and platforms for organizing, mobilizing, and raising awareness. Advances in artificial intelligence, data analytics, and communication technologies can empower activists to amplify their messages and reach broader audiences. However, ethical considerations and concerns about surveillance and censorship must also be addressed.

Potential Strategies for Effective Activism

To maximize the impact of activism on human rights, activists can consider adopting the following potential strategies[13]

  • Grassroots Mobilization: Grounding activism in local communities and grassroots movements can foster strong networks and amplify the voices of marginalized communities. Engaging directly with affected individuals and communities builds trust, empowers local leaders, and ensures that activism remains connected to the lived experiences of those most impacted by human rights violations.
  • Strategic Partnerships: Collaborating with diverse stakeholders, such as NGOs, advocacy groups, academia, and policymakers, can strengthen advocacy efforts. Strategic partnerships enable the pooling of resources, expertise, and influence, enhancing the effectiveness of activism and expanding its reach and impact.
  • Digital Activism: Leveraging technology and social media platforms can enable widespread mobilization, raise awareness, and facilitate rapid dissemination of information. Digital activism allows for global solidarity, enables real-time documentation of human rights abuses, and provides platforms for marginalized communities to share their stories and amplify their voices.
  • Policy Advocacy and Legal Action: Engaging in targeted policy advocacy and legal action can drive systemic change. Activists can work to influence legislation, hold governments accountable for human rights violations, and challenge discriminatory policies through litigation and strategic legal advocacy.

Role of Technology and Social Media

Technology and social media platforms have become powerful tools for activism and human rights advocacy. They provide new avenues for communication, mobilization, and organizing. The role of technology and social media in the future of activism includes[14]

  • Amplifying Voices: Social media platforms allow activists to reach global audiences, share personal stories, and raise awareness about human rights issues. Hashtags, viral campaigns, and online petitions can quickly generate widespread support and solidarity.
  • Information Dissemination: Technology facilitates the rapid dissemination of information, enabling activists to expose human rights abuses and mobilize public opinion. It provides real-time updates, documentation, and evidence of violations, holding perpetrators accountable.
  • Digital Security: As technology evolves, ensuring digital security becomes paramount for activists. Safeguarding sensitive information, protecting privacy, and mitigating the risks of surveillance and online harassment are essential for effective and safe activism.
  • Combatting Disinformation: While social media offers a platform for activism, it also presents challenges in dealing with disinformation and misinformation. Activists need to develop critical digital literacy skills to discern credible information and counter false narratives that undermine human rights causes.

Engagement of Youth and Marginalized Communities

The engagement of youth and marginalized communities is vital for the future of activism and human rights. Including these groups in activism ensures diverse perspectives and promotes inclusive decision-making. Key considerations for effective engagement include[15]

  • Youth Empowerment: Recognizing the agency and potential of young activists is crucial. Providing platforms for youth-led initiatives, mentorship programs, and spaces for intergenerational dialogue empowers young activists to drive meaningful change and contribute fresh perspectives to human rights advocacy.
  • Intersectional Approaches: Activism should prioritize intersectionality by centring the voices and experiences of marginalized communities. Recognizing the unique challenges faced by individuals at the intersections of multiple identities ensures that activism addresses the complexities of human rights violations.
  • Access and Inclusion: Activism should be accessible and inclusive, considering the diverse needs and barriers faced by marginalized communities. This includes ensuring language accessibility, accommodating disabilities, and addressing socioeconomic disparities that may limit engagement.
  • Cultivating Allyship: Activists from privileged backgrounds can play a vital role in supporting and amplifying the voices of marginalized communities. Cultivating allyship involves listening, learning, and actively working to dismantle systems of oppression within activism spaces.


Activism has been instrumental in bringing about legislative changes and policy reforms that protect and promote human rights. Through persistent advocacy and public pressure, activists have successfully influenced governments to pass laws and implement policies that address systemic discrimination, inequality, and violence. Activism has also contributed to social and cultural transformation, fostering greater acceptance, tolerance, and inclusivity within societies. While activism has demonstrated significant achievements, it also faces challenges and limitations. Resistance from governments, entrenched power structures, and societal biases often hinder progress. Activists must grapple with repression, violence, and legal barriers, risking their safety and well-being in the pursuit of justice. Moreover, sustaining momentum and translating activism into lasting change can be complex and require long-term commitment.

Looking to the future, it is essential to recognize the evolving landscape of activism and the potential it holds for further advancing human rights. Emerging trends, such as the use of technology and social media, offer new avenues for organizing, mobilizing, and amplifying voices. Engaging youth and marginalized communities in activism can bring fresh perspectives and energize movements for change. It is crucial for activists, governments, and international organizations to collaborate and support each other to overcome challenges and effectively address human rights issues.

[1]“Anderson GL and Herr KG, “Activism, Social and Political”, (2007)Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Justice, 19, https://www.bmartin.cc/pubs/07Anderson.html.”

[2]““The Importance of Activism during a Crisis”, Office of the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs & Provost, University of Miami (July 21, 2020), https://culture.miami.edu/blog/importance-of-activism/index.html, accessed June 20, 2023.”

[3]“Soken-Huberty E, “10 Reasons Why Human Rights Are Important”, Human Rights Careers (September 22, 2019), https://www.humanrightscareers.com/issues/10-reasons-why-human-rights-are-important/, accessed June 20, 2023.”

[4]““HRE and Activism”, Council of Europe, https://www.coe.int/en/web/compass/hre-and-activism, accessed June 20, 2023.”

[5]““Raising Awareness for Human Rights”, Greenheart, https://greenheart.org/blog/greenheart-international/raising-awareness-for-human-rights/, accessed June 20, 2023.”

[6]““How Does Technology Impact Activism?”, TMCNET (February 7, 2023), https://www.tmcnet.com/topics/articles/2023/02/07/454884-how-does-technology-impact-activism.htm, accessed June 20, 2023.”

[7]Supra Note 3.

[8]““United Nations Human Rights System: Treaties, Mechanisms and Documents”, ESCR-Net, https://www.escr-net.org/resources/united-nations-human-rights-system-treaties-mechanisms-and-documents, accessed June 21, 2023.”

[9]““Role of NGOs in Human Rights”, iPleaders(December 31, 2021),https://blog.ipleaders.in/role-of-ngos-in-human-rights/, accessed June 21, 2023.”

[10]““Government Responses to Social Movements”, Fiveable (February 5, 2023), https://library.fiveable.me/ap-gov/unit-3/government-responses-to-social-movements/study-guide/bd5RRhZgFHCRhldEG6VB, accessed June 21, 2023.”

[11]Supra Note 9.

[12]“Petrasek D, “Global Trends and The Future of Human Rights Advocacy”, [2014], International Journal of Human Rights, https://sur.conectas.org/en/global-trends-and-the-future-of-human-rights-advocacy/.”


[14]Supra Note 6.

[15]Supra Note 5.