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Facing Barriers And Obstacles

What happens if I face barriers or obstacles in exercising my human rights?

Young people often face barriers or obstacles in exercising their human rights because of their age. However, age is one characteristic that can intersect with, add to and multiply discrimination based on other grounds.

A number of options may be available to you if you feel that your rights have been violated, or you are facing barriers to exercising your rights. Action may be possible domestically, internationally or both, depending on the specific situation and where you live.

In depth…

While it is difficult to provide detailed, specific guidance that is broadly applicable across different contexts and settings, you may want to think about possible options. Safety and security are a key priority, so ensure that you are not putting yourself at risk of harm, including for your mental health, and assess whether you are facing an immediate threat or danger. More information on protection is provided in Section B under the question ‘How can I stay safe and be protected while defending my rights?’. Once you are confident that you are not putting yourself at risk of harm, think about potential courses of action.

Consider what would be most effective in addressing the situation you are facing, bearing in mind the avenues available domestically as well as internationally. For example, options may include advocating or campaigning for legal or policy change, seeking justice through the legal system, such as courts, or a combination of both. The nature of the barrier, obstacle or violation, and whether it affects one or several individuals or larger groups of people more collectively will also play a role.

A. Advocating or campaigning for legal or policy change
Advocacy or campaigns may be more appropriate in situations where a large group of people collectively faces barriers or obstacles to exercising their rights. For example, to address the situation of unpaid internships or lack of access to social protection for young people. Advocacy for youth rights is the focus of Section B of the toolkit.

B. Seeking justice and legal redress
Certain human rights violations, including violations of international human rights law by a State or government, may require legal action through the justice system, for example the excessive use of force against peaceful protestors.

At the national level, accredited National Human Rights Institutions (known as NHRIs) play a crucial role in promoting and monitoring the effective implementation of international human rights standards. NHRIs have a protection mandate to address and seek to prevent actual human rights violations within their jurisdiction. The NHRI mandate includes monitoring, inquiring, investigating and reporting on human rights violations, and may include handling individual complaints. NHRIs also play an important role to assist victims to find remedies to human rights violations and abuses.

The special character of NHRIs as a bridge between government and civil society can be especially important in prevention efforts by opening the space to address underlying structural causes of violations.

The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) includes all accredited NHRIs worldwide. Further information on NHRIs, including details for your country’s NHRI can be accessed via the UN Human Rights website.

At the international level, a number of tools and mechanisms exist to address human rights violations, to monitor the implementation of human rights standards and to promote human rights. Further information on the use of international human rights mechanisms is available in Section C of the present toolkit.

Where can I learn more?

For more detailed information on National Human Rights Institutions, visit:

Promoting Awareness Amongst Youth

Human rights can only be achieved through an informed and continued demand by people for their protection.