Global challenges like pandemics, armed conflict, and climate change bring to light enduring global disparities, particularly for fair and equitable access to research. Open access (OA) publishing primarily aims to increase access to knowledge, promote collaboration, enhance visibility, and encourage public engagement. In fact, access to scientific knowledge unlocks the potential to fulfil other basic human rights related to food, health, and economic development.

Here are some ways by which OA publishing can promote human rights.

Documentation of human rights abuses

Proper documentation of what constitutes human rights abuse and how to prevent it ensures that practitioners have access to pertinent examples, rules, and regulations. Documentation can also prevent researchers from intentionally or unwittingly participating in human rights violations. Organizations and societies play a key role in this direction, e.g., the World Medical Association prevents physicians from taking part in human rights violations.

Research provides evidence-based recommendations for effective policies and practices, and OA can help research percolate out of academic circles to inform these efforts.

Role in supporting advocacy efforts

Human rights advocacy aims to create or implement human rights norms, law, or policy. At the heart of human rights and social justice change lies the effective use of information. Publishers can facilitate the dissemination of information related to human rights issues, making this critical information accessible to a wide audience. By providing access to such content, they can amplify the voices of activists, researchers, and human rights organizations, helping to raise awareness and gather support for the protection and promotion of human rights.

Disseminating policy implications of research

Publishers and scholarly societies can leverage their wealth of peer-reviewed research to engage with stakeholders and influence critical issues related to their respective fields. They can develop and utilize new ways of presenting and sharing information to inform policy changes and contribute to global transformation in areas like public health, the economy, and sustainability. Journals on human rights issues can make their research more visible, discoverable, and accessible in a number of ways, e.g., making research available in regional languages and sharing research findings in plain, accessible language.

Access to such research is vital to stimulate further dialog and research on policy, as well as encourage diplomatic efforts, economic or political sanctions, and mediation and conflict resolution.

Impact of OA research on social justice movements

OA research can have a significant impact on social justice movements. The democratization of scholarly knowledge, which is a key aspect of the OA movement, ensures that work is available for anyone to read, usually via the Internet. Research on social movements can advance current understanding of policy from a global perspective and strengthen relevant frameworks. Global movements to challenge inequalities and mobilize for greater justice and progressive policy changes can be ushered in with various campaigns rooted in access to information. Take for example HURIDOCS, which establishes online, user-friendly libraries for access to human rights information for improving advocacy and litigation efforts. It also offers a directory of publicly available and reliable sources of human rights information.

To overcome language barriers limiting access to human rights information, volunteers from the UN Human Rights Office, Wikimedia Foundation, and Wikipedia launched a #WikiForHumanRights campaign to create multilingual content on human rights. More than 700 articles on various human rights topics were edited in over 12 languages, and articles dedicated to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were made available in nine additional languages.

Scholarly publishers in this space can spearhead similar initiatives to meaningfully contribute to social justice movements.

OA and its impact on grassroots movements

Grassroots movements are collaborative efforts of regular individuals working together to initiate change. This type of activism can occur on a global, regional, or community level. Focusing on building power from the ground up can be a powerful and effective approach for safeguarding and promoting human rights. Grassroots movements address a wide spectrum of issues, including environmental conservation, social justice, rural development, women’s empowerment, and more. OA research has the power to amplify grassroots efforts. By opening access to information and research, OA can help motivate grassroots movements for positive change.

Final notes

By bridging knowledge gaps, OA can reduce disparities in access to information, address inequality, and facilitate global collaboration. OA research can have a transformative impact on advocacy, social justice movements, and grassroots movements in shaping the future of human rights across the globe. The promotion of OA to human rights information will pave the way for advancing the field of human rights in both public and private sectors and empower local communities to further human rights causes.

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