Most Credible and Recognized
“Our partnership started 1997 and has ever since rendered phenomenal work in the area of criminal justice and access to information”, notes Dona John, until recently Program Manager Human Rights at the Regional Office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) in New Delhi. The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), no doubt, has been our strongest and most consistent partner in the field of Human Rights. The organization was set up with a Commonwealth mandate in 1988. Thus, this year marks the 30th year of CHRI’s work globally - and 25th year of its work in South Asia.
The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) has supported the work of CHRI in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives over the past two decades. CHRI is seen by many as the anchorage of civil society practitioners, jurists, researchers and media on the topics of prison and police reforms. Over the years, it has tirelessly pursued interactions and strategic interventions with the police and political leadership, media and human rights activists across South Asia. CHRI is “the most credible and recognized voice on democratic policing”, notes Mrs John.
The organization has been a pioneer in demanding for citizen’s basic right to information. The Indian Right to Information Act, 2005 and similar Freedom of Information legislations in South Asia saw CHRI providing technical expertise to governments and civil society alike.
To commemorate the anniversary, CHRI has held a series of events. At the first annual lecture on ‘The State of Human Rights and the Limits of Jurisprudence’ Justice Madan Lokur gave the inaugural talk. On that same day, CHRI held an open consultation on the ‘Future of RTI: Challenges and Opportunities’ with numerous stakeholders. CHRI organized its second human rights festival: Matters of Right showcasing award winning movies on the subject. The festival ended on a musical note by Traffic Jam and Empirical Tribe, bands from the North East of India.
CHRI has recently formed the South Asia Media Defenders Network (SAMDEN) which aims to address impunity and arbitrariness affecting rural media workers especially. SAMDEN brings together editors, journalists and other media workers from different countries. The network’s larger purpose is to promote media freedom, advocacy and rights.
For 20 years CHRI has worked under the directorship of Ms. Maja Daruwala who throughout has also guided and mentored other organizations in the field of criminal justice and accountability. Late 2016, Prof. Sanjoy Hazarika took over as director. A renowned author, scholar, journalist and film maker, Prof. Hazarika has brought fresh impetus to the group with his media focus while continuing to strengthen the network for human rights and accountability.