The Human Rights Project was founded in 1996 as the Organizing Project, with the specific goal of organizing welfare recipients and advocates to dismantle the Work Experience Program, a welfare reform policy of the Giuliani administration. Despite success with the campaign, there was growing frustration among advocates with the lack of language and tools with which to hold the government accountable to human rights violations. Inspired by the opportunities for advancing rights found in the human rights framework, the project evolved into the Human Rights Project (HRP) a few years later.
The campaign to document human rights violations in the welfare system was successful in bringing together a number of anti-poverty organizations and welfare recipients. The end product was the report Hunger is No Accident, one of the first human rights reports to look at economic human rights, particularly the right to food, within a U.S. context.
HRP focuses on economic, social and cultural rights with a particular emphasis on discrimination because we are resolved to bring attention to economic human rights in the U.S., as well as reframe the discrimination debate to reach beyond single identities. While U.S. laws are strong on civil and political rights, they generally do not recognize the right to education, health, housing, an adequate standard of living and many other economic and social rights. Consequently fulfillment of economic, social and cultural rights is determined by the political will of people in power, leaving many in need. In the human rights framework, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights are all inter-dependent, and there is an affirmative obligation on the government to respect, protect, and fulfill these human rights.
HRP advances human rights in the U.S. through organizing, documentation, and education. HRP serves as a link between organizations and activists using human rights as the common thread. HRP is a unique model of human rights organizing, working in collaboration with local organizations to effectuate proactive change in securing human rights for New York’s most vulnerable.