Buenos Aires Children

The Politics of Human Rights Narratives: Transnational Advocacy on Sexualized Violence

THE Problem

How did the normative agenda around sexual- and gender-based violence (SGBV) in conflict outlined in UN Security Council Resolution (SCR) 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) affect transnational advocacy? Research on the strategies of transnational human rights advocacy has grown in recent years. Scholarship has shown that framing is a vital tactic in interpreting situations as human rights violations, determining responsibility, and promoting solutions. Despite this research, there is still much to learn about why networks respond to normative discussions at the international level, choose certain frames for advocacy campaigns around conflict, how those choices construct new discourses, and the impact of those discourses on the people those campaigns claim to represent.

This project takes up the cases of Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo to explore how the agenda of UNSCR 1325 around SGBV in conflict was shaped by transnational advocacy and humanitarian organizations, interrogating what narratives circulated and their impact on interventions—political, humanitarian and military. We examine conflict narratives by Western advocates during these conflicts from 2000 to 2015 with a security lens to investigate the normative diffusion of UNSCR 1325. In this way, we see advocacy playing a critical role in turning norms into practices and in shaping the trajectories of security and humanitarianism amidst increasing numbers of complex emergencies. We draw on interview data dating back to 2006 with over 50 representatives from advocacy organizations, UN and other humanitarian institutions, and practitioners as well as discourse analysis of campaign materials and media coverage.

the Purpose

  • Despite increased international awareness, attention and resources focused on sexual- and gender-based violence in conflict, particularly rape, instances of violence against women in war-torn regions continues to be a defining sign of the times. This project aims to unpack this puzzle by analyzing the contested narratives set forth by human rights advocacy organizations on the issue of violence against women in conflict. This analysis examines the power dynamics at work within transnational advocacy to better understand the impact of insider and outsider strategies, pop culture and the media. Thus, our purpose is to better understand such advocacy in order to provide insight to how it might be improved and better connected to women’s lived experiences in conflict.
  • the People


    • Book manuscript in accessible, practitioner-oriented language
    • Two Working Papers for the Human Rights Center 
    • Blog posts
    • Working Paper for The LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security
    • Curricular guide for undergraduate and graduate level courses
    • 6-week Course Module (online)
    • Executive Summary with Recommendations for Advocates
    • 1 hour workshop for practitioners facilitation guide
    • Book tour in DC and NYC, including books to distribute to relevant NGOs
    • Organize panel on Transnational Advocacy Strategies at 2019 Social Practice Human Rights Conference

  • Funding

    • The Shana Alexander Charitable Foundation
    • University of Dayton Human Rights Center

Find us

Human Rights Center

Keller Hall 455 
300 College Park 
Dayton, Ohio 45469 - 2790