Over the past several years, a serious human rights crisis has

developed in Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe

employs repressive measures to cling to power. Civil society and

human rights groups in Zimbabwe are among those who have

come under attack by the government, and they face an

extremely difficult challenge in bringing about positive change

in the country. This article describes the development of the

current crisis in Zimbabwe, focusing on the problems faced by

local activists and organizations that seek to promote greater

respect for human rights. It further discusses one recent

initiative launched by the U.S.-based organization Human

Rights First, which organized a consultative meeting of regional

civil society groups in August 2003. The article addresses the

role that can and should be played by international civil society

organizations, which must be sensitive to the contextual

dynamics particular to the Zimbabwean crisis and to the region.

If they are to be in any way effective, such organizations must

act in support of local actors and stronger regional networks.