Five human rights panels at #AmnestyICM, 18-22 August 2013

1.       Human rights and migration

“I want all the world to know about us”

foto1Before starting to talk about ourselves, about the AI movement from within, ICM attendees listened to very inspiring testimonies about human rights of migrants and refugees.

The ICM heard from Kusha Bahrami, a refugee from Iran and a member of AI Greece. After a long and complicated process, he eventually got asylum but still feels like a prisoner in his host country and fears what might happen to him in the street. Carmen Dupont, the coordinator of the human rights and migration campaign at the European Institutions Office in Brussels, told us what happens out there, in the Mediterranean Sea, at night when everybody is sleeping and nobody is watching. She showed us what happens Sherif Elsaved-Ali, from the IS, made us think about the people who pick the fruits and vegetables we enjoy at our tables and about the human rights impact of international sports events. Finally, Rameshwar, director of AI Nepal, explained Amnesty’s work in Nepal, where about one third of the population has emigrated, and shared with the room the main conclusions of the AI mission in Qatar he was part of.

Migration is a global phenomenon that has always existed in history. Migration enhances diversity and mutual understanding. By definition, migration connects people, but it also connects AI sections, structures and activists all over the world. We realised once again that Amnesty can make a real difference by tackling human rights abuses against people on the move.

2.       Human rights and crisis work

“Sexual violence in conflict is not women’s problem; it is a matter of human rights and it concerns all of us”

foto2The second human rights panel helped the International Council getting a clearer understanding of AI’s approach to crises and exploring the movement’s strengths and weaknesses, with the view of improving our response in the immediate future.

Gilles Yabi, Project Director of the West Africa Programme at International Crisis Group, explained the research work done by his organisation in West Africa and presented a general picture of the conflict in Mali with the multiple political dimensions both at the national and the regional levels. Gaetan Mootoo, researcher at the IS, talked about Amnesty’s response to the crisis in Mali. Since the beginning of the crisis in early 2012, AI has visited the country five times for 3-4 weeks each time. AI Mali’s played a critical role in the mission. AI has widely exposed its human rights concerns in the context of the Malian crisis, such as sexual violence by armed groups, torture by security forces or recruitment and detention of child soldiers, and other violations of International Humanitarian Law. AI’s rapid response to this ongoing crisis had an impact over other countries, like Côte d’Ivoire, where Amnesty’s work continued confronting the post-electoral crisis. Amnesty’s timely presence in Mali had a positive effect over the opening of judicial inquiries and Amnesty’s research has been used by the International Criminal Court in its preliminary investigations. Amnesty’s work on the crisis in Mali also enhanced AI Mali’s recognition and visibility in the country.

Finally, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of the MENA Programme at the IS, analysed the events in Egypt in the last weeks and AI’s response to the human rights situation in the country. AI has been documenting the human rights impact of the clashes between security forces (police and army) and Morsi’s supporters. Violence against women in Tahrir Square and elsewhere and impunity and lack of reparation for victims of human rights violations are two of the main concerns raised by AI in its research and campaign work. AI has been permanently present in the country since the end of June. The Egyptian experience may spill over neighbouring countries, which confirms the relevance of human rights and crisis work beyond borders.

3.       Fundraising: Building a culture and human rights philanthropy

“Fundraising: From the “f” word to the billion dollar dream”

Chris Holm, from the IS, and Kerry Moscogiuri, from AI UK, led an insightful and informative panel on fundraising for human rights. The panel reminded the International Council about the importance of prioritising fundraising as a fundamental component of AI work. In the context of the current economic crisis, AI is underperforming in fundraising in comparison to other international NGOs. At this pace, AI fundraising will not achieve the growth required to deliver our goals and achieve a positive impact on human rights. A decline in fundraising leads to a decline in our human rights work. If we want Amnesty to grow in members and resources, we must do better at telling good stories with power and passion. AI France and AI Ghana shared with the Council their fundraising experiences. They talked about the need to integrate fundraising in our daily work and its importance in order to be locally relevant. Sections emphasized the link between mobilisation, impact and fundraising

Fundraising is about money but it is more than that. Fundraising is the way to engage with members and supporters. Amnesty members dream about a world where all human rights are respected for all. Raising funds will give us the chance to make it happen.


4.       Human rights and digital freedoms

“The challenge of using technology for human rights and protecting the right to privacy at the same time”

The panel presented digital freedoms in the context of Amnesty International’s overarching digital vision for 2016. Owen Pringle, from the IS, presented “Panic Button”, a mobile app for human rights defenders that face dangerous situations. By pressing the Panic Button, they can broadcast their situation to a preselected group of contacts or through social media. Eric King, from Privacy International, talked about the flipside of technology: its potential threat to the right to privacy. Currently, there is nearly no defence against technological threats because governments refuse to set limits and controls. As Snowden’s case has shown, Western countries do not want to talk about surveillance or even accept its mere existence. We need laws in place so the use of technology does not translate into a breach of the right to privacy. We cannot accept any longer that surveillance could be above the law. Finally, Marcelo Daher, from the UN OHCHR, spoke about the work carried out by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Frank la Rue, in relation to human rights and surveillance.

In a time a quick and easy technological communications, the global human rights community must look closely into the right to privacy. Amnesty International should explore how to engage people in the defence and promotion of this right. Furthermore, access to the internet is now a basic human rights. Amnesty International must find out how to add value to the debate on human rights in the technology space.

5.       Sexual and Reproductive Rights

“Ensure that men and women can exercise their sexual and reproductive rights without coercion, discrimination or violence”

foto 4The last panel of the 2013 ICM presented the delegates with an overview of the current discussion inside and outside the AI movement. Widney Brown and Savio Carvalho, from the IS, and Béatrice Vaugrante, executive director of AI Canada (FS), discussed the policy implications, research needs and campaign opportunities. AI Ireland, AI Argentina and AI Philippines helped identifying opportunities to develop this work for the next strategic planning. A number of delegates expressed a deep interest in discussing the scope, focus and desired human rights impact through developing the work on sexual and reproductive rights further.


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