Fact Sheet #6a) Human Rights Champions

Level 2

Element: Leadership and Accountability

Outcome 6: Management is engaged in human rights culture change.

Indicator 6a): Human rights champions have been identified within management.

Possible Measures and Data Sources:

  • Assignment of responsibility for the implementation of the human rights culture change to champions.
  • Identification of a formal or informal leader to engage in a human rights culture change.

Indicator Description

Appointing human rights champions within your organization will help ensure the success of your human rights initiatives. A human rights champion acts as a business champion, but with a focus on coordinating and facilitating activities related to achieving a human rights culture in your workplace. To increase the impact and effectiveness of your activities, human rights champions should either be a member of, or be fully supported by, senior leadership.

Consider the following definition of a champion, as defined by the Immigrant Women's Association of Manitoba (Kalloo & Migliardi, 2002):              

“A champion is a valued member of the organization, a model, leader and implementer of the change process. He or she supports the efforts of the senior leadership, but does not absolve them of their responsibilities. […] This person is a holder of the vision and core values towards which the organization is moving, is a key transmitter of the new culture, and is a person who empowers self, others and the organization to act. It is important that the champion be given a formal mandate.”[1]

As noted above, a champion is a leader, an implementer and should empower others to act. Human rights champions are neither meant to replace the need for a continued visible commitment to human rights from all senior leadership, nor should they be expected to complete all tasks on their own. Human rights champions should have a clear mandate and be supported with the necessary resources to carry out their action plans. They may act as focal points for human rights activities by coordinating communications and awareness, training, and resource allocation

At Level 2, your organization put its commitment to human rights in action by appointing human rights champions. These individuals will help keep the entire organization motivated and committed to building new capacities, as outlined within the Human Rights Maturity Model (HRMM).

For example, a human rights champion might be in charge of launching a diversity campaign, contributing to internal postings about diversity and anti-discrimination, demonstrating inclusive behaviour, while keeping the HRMM project teams on track, etc.

Suggested Approach

  • Create a mandate: Begin by defining the roles and responsibilities of your human rights champions. Some of these responsibilities might include: discussing your organizational values as they relate to creating an inclusive workforce, launching human rights projects, acting as liaison, creating a diversity committee, and any other roles and responsibilities you decide on.
  • Allocate resources: Part of the responsibility of the human rights champion may be to help secure the required resources for a given project. Resources may include time commitment from other members of the organization, fund allocation, use of office space or other facilities, and access to technology. Depending on the mandate that you have decided upon, resource allocation will vary. Review your projects regularly to ensure there are sufficient resources in place to achieve your goals.
  • Define the reporting relationship: You will likely want to follow up on activities and receive feedback from your human rights champions. They may report back to a committee at regular intervals, or work directly with another member of the senior leadership team.
  • Identify management-level employees: Human rights champions should be chosen from within management and be familiar with your organizational processes. They should be trusted members of your organization and demonstrate enthusiasm for the cause. These individuals should be prepared to lead teams and show initiative in the face of adversity.
  • Make an announcement to your organization: Once you have decided on your human rights champions, make an announcement to the entire organization. This announcement could be accompanied by details of upcoming projects related to the role. A Human Rights Champion should be an active position, so try to arrange opportunities for this person to present information in person, for example, at your next employee day.

Promising Practices

  • Start a diversity committee: A Human Rights Champion within an organization started his work by creating a diversity committee. In doing so, he invited members from across the organization. He made sure to offer accommodation up front to increase interest and engagement and to promote inclusivity.
  • Appoint informal or honorary human rights champion: With the support of senior management, a human rights champion recruited volunteers to help create a culture of human rights in the workplace. These people shared their stories with others, promoted change in smaller, regional offices, and coordinated activities on an ad-hoc basis.

Useful Tools and Links

La diversité en entreprise et en affaires : une stratégie gagnante (available in French only) - Les Champions de la diversité

Guide pratique de la gestion de la diversité interculturelle en emploi (available in French only) - Les Champions de la diversité

Diversity Champion’s Backgrounder and Guide - Embracing Diversity


Kalloo, Maureen & Migliardi, Paula for Immigrant Women's Association of Manitoba Inc “Laying the Groundwork for an Organizational Assessment Tool for Diversity Accountability.” IWAM. 2002.

Greaver, Maurice F. “Strategic Outsourcing: A Structured Approach to Outsourcing Decisions and Initiative.” New York: AMACOM Books, 1999. Print.

Mackoff, Barbara and Gary Alan Wenet. “The Inner Work of Leaders: Leadership as a Habit of Mind.” New York: AMACOM books, 2000. Print.

Sagawa, Shirley, and Eli Segal. “Common Interest, Common Good: Creating Value through Business and Social Sector Partnerships.” Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1999. Print.

[1] “Laying the Groundwork for an Organizational Assessment Tool for Diversity Accountability.” IWAM. 2002.

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