The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.
Powering Grassroots Solutions: Reporting on UUSC’s Recent Impacts for Justice
By Michael Kourabas on November 23, 2020
UUSC and its partners around the globe believe deeply in the power of grassroots movements to heal communities and bring about sustainable solutions for a better world.
In fact, we measure our organization’s human rights impact by how successfully we have helped strengthen these movements and the organizations, coalitions, and individuals who build them. Thanks to the wisdom and experience of frontline activists, movement leaders, and our partners, we understand how best to do it.
Our impact report for 2020 examined our work against several specific indicators for systemic change and movement-building.
Right now, the communities we work with are navigating compounding crises happening across the globe.
Forced displacement continues to rise. Whether due to our changing climate decimating crops and swallowing homes into rising seas or violence from gangs and corrupt governments, the outcome is clear — millions of families must find a new place to call home. Irresponsible governments and their leaders provide fewer and fewer options for those in search of safe haven, oftentimes actually increasing the danger they face with new laws designed to oppress and deprive people of their right to migrate.
On top of these global challenges for those on the move, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately hospitalized and killed Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIOPOC) individuals, once again exposing systemic inequities in access to healthcare, housing, and wealth.
And yet, even in a year full of such adversity, human rights defenders and movements around the world made some remarkable gains toward lasting systems change. We celebrate a few highlights of this collective progress below, but please check out the full 2020 Impact Report for more.
Migrant Justice: Fighting Child Detention in Georgia
Last fall, members of the Emerson UU Congregation in Marietta, Georgia, reached out to UUSC with concerns that a local business was trying to open a child detention center there. Alongside UUSC partners New Sanctuary Movement of Atlanta and Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, we prepared members of the congregation to challenge the construction by appealing a zoning variance, bringing the issue to the City Council, and generating strong public opposition in advance of a Marietta City Council vote. UUSC also provided media coaching and provided sources and data to support the coalition’s arguments against the detention center. When the time came for the vote, Marietta’s City Council unanimously opposed the facility. The campaign to oppose the Marietta facility is just one powerful example of how UUSC is helping to build and strengthen powerful coalitions of grassroots partners and allies.
Burma: A Movement for Justice and Accountability
In late 2019, UUSC and our partner, the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK), brought together a group of Rohingya youth from around the world for a youth conference in London, the first such convening of its kind internationally. At the convening, emerging youth movement leaders pointed to the critical need for NGOs and other actors to follow UUSC’s approach and ensure that programs aimed at assisting Rohingya communities in their demand for justice and an end to human rights violations in Burma are in fact Rohingya-led — particularly by youth and women. In a powerful display of inter-ethnic solidarity, Rohingya leaders were joined by activists from the Karen, Kachin, Burman, Tibetan, and Uyghur communities. Since the convening, the group of youth leaders who gathered in London have continued to build community and engage the wider movement, reaching tens of thousands through virtual programming.
Climate Justice: The Right to Resist
In recent years, more than 20 states have passed bills to criminalize peaceful protest, often targeting BIPOC activists, and UUSC has begun working with grassroots partners and coalitions to protect the right to resist and rollback unjust laws. One such partner is the Carrizo Comecrudo/Esto’k Gna Tribe of Texas, which has defended its land against militarization, desecration, and environmental degradation for years. This year, UUSC provided an unrestricted grant to the Tribe to support the ongoing advocacy efforts against fracked gas pipelines. In May, in coalition with UUSC, other Tribes, and frontline advocates, the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe held a historic Tribunal for Human Rights to hold corporations accountable for Indigenous rights violations. The two-day Tribunal examined harms to the Esto’K Gna, creating a public record of human rights violations which lays the groundwork for legal actions against the oil and gas industry.
About UUSC: Guided by the belief that all people have inherent worth and dignity, UUSC advances human rights globally by partnering with affected communities who are confronting injustice, mobilizing to challenge oppressive systems, and inspiring and sustaining spiritually grounded activism for justice. We invite you to join us in this journey toward realizing a better future!
Photo Credit: Fundacion Entre Mujeres (FEM)