Skip main navigation

Analysing risks before taking action

Analysing risks before taking action

It is important to be aware of the potential risks associated with taking action for human rights. The following self assessment questions can help guide your thoughts regarding threats, vulnerabilities and capacities.

Threats can be explicit and direct (for example verbal intimidation) or they can be implicit and indirect (for example a hostile environment)

Vulnerabilities are personal – they define how or where a threat could harm someone.

Capacities are sources of strength and support which can increase security and safety.

Reflect on the questions below before taking action:

What threats do I face on a regular basis?
– Do I regularly work in an area that is unstable or dangerous?
– Do I work on a topic that is highly controversial in my area, or that authorities and/or any other powerful groups would see as threatening to their interests?
– Do I have close family, friends or colleagues that could be targeted for retaliation?

What vulnerabilities do I have that could make it easier to attack or harm me?
– Do I carry sensitive information with me that could cause something to happen to me or others if it was stolen or misplaced?
– Do I carry a mobile phone that could be used to track my movements and/or communications?
– Am I well known for my work in my area, and could this increase the likeliness of attacks or harm?

What strengths and capacities do I have access to?
– Do I have a working phone, and can I use it discreetly without being monitored?
– Do I have a strong family or community ties that are supportive?
– Can I access adequate healthcare if I need it?
– Do I have access to legal advice and representation if I need it?

The following recommendations offer an overview of how to reduce risk that may accompany taking action for human rights.

Risk mitigation is often contextual, you will need to consider your own unique situation. However, there are some general guidelines that you can utilise to think about how to minimize your risk.

Tips on travelling
– Find alternate ways or times to travel to and from places I frequently visit, and vary the journey so my movements are less predictable.
– Take a safer mode of transportation – for example, take a licensed or trusted taxi after a certain time at night or travel together with friends.

Tip on your surroundings
– Make my home and work environments safer – for example by installing lights in dark corners, ensuring doors and windows have safe and secure locks with no easy break in points

Tips on technology
– Have credit on my phone and carry a second battery or power bank with me at all times
– Use Facebook, Twitter and other social media carefully – check if others can easily trace my movements using my social media accounts.
– Erase sensitive information from devices such as phones or laptops that could put me or my contacts at risk if traveling to a high risk area.
– Ask myself what I really know about tech security and staying safe online. Improve that knowledge or find someone who can help me improve my knowledge and capabilities.
– Use safe passwords and change them regularly.

Tips on relationships
– Think about who I should let know where I am on a regular basis. Consider to work with other people promoting human right issues and travel in larger numbers.
– Think about who can publicly back me or can make statements supporting me that would help me improve my credibility in the public eye.
– If I went missing, who would know? What can I do to ensure someone notices sooner? I could establish a regular check-in routine and a plan of action for what to do in case I miss a check-in.
– Be aware of my surroundings when I am having sensitive conversations.


What are some of the risks you could encounter when taking action and what are the precautions you can think of that can help you reduce these risks?

Share your ideas with your peers in the comments section.

This article is from the free online

Defending Dignity: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now