About The Project

The Human Rights Documentation (HRD) Toolkit project aims to break down barriers between documentation stakeholders in different disciplines. The aim of the Toolkit is to increase collaboration and coordination on documentation efforts by creating a cross-sector set of broadly accepted practices, tools, and methods for HRD.  

The field of HRD defines what it means to be multidisciplinary, requiring the convergence of a range of technology, technical expertise, and operational capacity to be truly effective.  In the context of human rights violations, documentation requires the careful collection, analysis, organization, and preservation of information related to human rights abuses.  Properly documented and preserved documentation can be used to promote justice and reconciliation in post-conflict environments, initiate memorialization, bolster local and international advocacy campaigns, and support human rights monitoring and education.

The HRD Toolkit project had three primary goals:

  • Create a space for the documentation community to share information and develop best practices around common issues;
  • Integrate and enrich existing efforts on HRD into a single resource for documenters working on the ground that is adaptable to specific documentation needs and goals; and
  • Create a digital platform that hosts both the broadly accepted practices and visual mapping of the documentation universe.

The resulting Toolkit is an interactive online portal that provides documentation resources, tools, and ongoing support for documentation stakeholders around the world.


The survey results, tools, and resources in the HRD Toolkit were compiled from a desk study, questionnaire responses, in-country cluster meetings, expert roundtables, and peer review.  

Desk Study – The Consortium collaborated to identify and compile existing documentation information, resources, tools, organizations, and networks from different sectors.  During this initial phase, the consortium held in-person interviews with documenters from different sectors and called for resource submissions, to identify the universe of available documentation resources.  Resources, like PILPG’s Handbook on Civil Society Documentation of Serious Human Rights Violations, were used to identify other existing resources and develop questions for the questionnaire and cluster meetings.  

Questionnaire – The Consortium developed a qualitative questionnaire to identify a wide range of methods, resources, and tools used by HRD organizations, as well as challenges that those organizations face.  The questionnaire asked: (1) what are you documenting; (2) how are you documenting; (3) why are you documenting (what purpose); and (4) what are your challenges.  Using the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s KoBo Toolbox the questionnaire surveyed 57 documenters across 42 countries between February and July 2016. Consortium partner SecDev Cyber used the data from the questionnaire to create a visual mapping of the documentation universe, which can be found here. Download the questionnaire in English, French, Spanish, or Arabic. 

Cluster Meetings – The Consortium conducted in-country cluster meetings, based on the humanitarian cluster model, to bring together stakeholders working in the same country with diverse documentation approaches and goals, such as use of forensics and science, criminal justice, advocacy, memorialization, and protection of vulnerable groups, to discuss approaches to documentation, challenges, and needs.  PILPG used the information gathered during the cluster meetings to identify and select specific documentation topics or challenges for which to create broadly accepted practices.    

Expert Roundtables – Based on the specific documentation topics and challenges identified during the cluster meetings, the consortium held expert round tables on three topics: central repositories, informed consent, and collection technology tools.  Experts on the specific topic from different sectors were invited to discuss and develop broadly accepted practices.  Based on the roundtable discussions, the Consortium drafted Broadly Accepted Practices briefing papers.  These Broadly Accepted Practices are included in the Resource Library to guide human rights documentation.

Peer Review –Throughout the HRD Toolkit project, the consortium used a peer review process through sharing, collaborating, and reviewing documents on the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s digital communication and collaboration platform, Trellis.    

The data and resources featured in the Toolkit were compiled to support the HRD community and enhance human rights around the world.