Members of human rights groups in southern Africa are to be trained online by a team of experts based at Oxford University's department for continuing education, thanks to an award of over Pounds 600,000 from the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights.
The three-year initiative, which will be delivered by the International Programmes Division, has also received a further Pounds 140,000 from the International Development Research Centre.
Working with non-governmental organisations in nine states, the project aims to develop effective methods of funding and organisation within the groups, as well as improving their investigative and advocacy skills.
Firoze Manji, an associate tutor in international human rights at the department for continuing education, said there was a great demand for adult training in civil liberties at both local and national level.
Dr Manji said: "Many human rights organisations in Africa are fragile. The absence of individuals attending training often has a devastating impact on the sustainability of their organisations. The availability of distance learning in human rights would enable such people to participate without absenting themselves from work."
In 1998, 49 of Africa's 54 countries were online. Access is still limited in some states, but improved telephone networks have led to an estimated 1
million internet account holders in Africa.
Dr Manji said the project had "enormous potential for human rights organisations".