A look back at the week…

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Whether you were at the ICM or joined the event virtually, take a look back at an inspiring week and towards the future of our human rights work.

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A toast to birthdays and democracy

On the last night of the ICM, everyone came together to recognize the work we had done over the course of the week and to celebrate fifty years of Amnesty International. In honor of Amnesty’s fiftieth birthday, we ate cake, toasted to freedom, and sang “Happy Birthday” in I don’t know how many languages.

The next morning, at the close of the resolutions plenary, we recognized another birthday. On September 4, Jabbar Savalan, a student activist from Azerbaijan, will be turning twenty. Unfortunately, Jabbar will not be able to celebrate. He is in prison, serving a two and a half year sentence on trumped up drug charges. In February, the day before he was arrested, Savalan posted a Facebook status calling for anti-government protests as part of his work with an opposition organization.

Everyone at the ICM wrote birthday cards to Jabbar, sending messages of hope to the imprisoned youth. Join us by sending cards of support to:

Jabbar Savalan
Detention Centre No. 10
Muzaffar Narimanov Street
Narimanov District, Baku City

And check out the full birthday card action.

Juxtaposed with the case of a young person imprisoned for posting a critical Facebook status, Amnesty International’s commitment to letting every member’s voice be heard is particularly impressive. As a first-time ICM attendee, I was struck by the democratic spirit of Amnesty. Members determine the movement’s priorities and policies.

Any member can bring a resolution to his or her section to try to bring about change in Amnesty International. Through a democratic governance process, some of those resolutions make it as far as the ICM, to be discussed and voted on by delegates from sections and structures around the world. As we all saw at the ICM, governance is not without its disagreements, heated discussions, and difficult decisions, but engaging in these processes is how we push our movement forward.

Yet as I learn more about Amnesty International’s governance, I wish that a greater percentage of its 3 million members took the initiative to get involved in the governance process within their sections or at the international level. At least within my own section, I have seen a core group of people take the lead in governance issues, others opt out, while some are confused by or unaware of the process. While I am sure participation varies from section to section, we can all work to be more inclusive. In order to build a movement that can most effectively achieve human rights victories, we need as many people as possible to participate. It is especially important to include youth and those from the Global South — people who added particularly important contributions to this year’s ICM. Contact your nearby volunteer leaders or regional staff to learn more about getting involved in Amnesty International’s governance.

We are lucky to be part of an organization where we our ideas and critiques are not only accepted, but encouraged. Unlike Jabbar Savalan, we can raise our voices. We must use our freedom to promote his.

Think. How can we free Jabbar and other prisoners of conscience?

Strategize. What should we do to grow the movement?

Raise your voice within Amnesty International.

And, of course, write a letter, help free Jabbar Savalan — this is the essence of Amnesty International’s work.

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Deberes para casa

Este es probablemente mi último artículo desde Noordwijkerhout. Durante más de una semana he tenido el enorme honor de participar en la asamblea global de Amnistía Internacional. Han sido unos días de mucho trabajo, con sus ratos libres, sus risas y sus bromas, pero mucho trabajo a fin de cuentas. Me considero un auténtico privilegiado por tomar parte en el foro donde se plantean, discuten y adoptan las líneas programáticas fundamentales del trabajo de esta organización. No obstante, es ahora cuando comienza el trabajo de verdad. Cuando volvamos a nuestras ciudades de origen, tendremos que echarnos encima un bidón de agua fría y sentarnos a reflexionar. ¿Qué supone esta RCI para el movimiento global de AI? ¿Qué lecciones hemos aprendido? ¿Cómo conectan los textos de las resoluciones adoptadas con el objetivo final de aumentar nuestro impacto en derechos humanos?Quizás una pregunta que no se plantea lo suficiente es: ¿Cómo trasladaremos estas decisiones, debates y reflexiones al activista de base, al que escribe sus apelaciones los jueves por la noche, a la que recoge firmas para poner fin a la represión en Siria en una tarde de invierno, a los que presionan a concejales y alcaldes para que adoptar declaraciones contra la pena de muerte, a quien ofrece la voz de AI en una radio comunitaria, etc.? Amnistía Internacional tiene más de 3 millones de miembros en el mundo. No más de 500 de ellos se han reunido en Holanda esta semana. Tenemos un gran recorrido por delante para difundir las conclusiones y contagiar el entusiasmo. Difícil tarea. Pero entre otras cosas, para eso estamos aquí.

Formar parte de un movimiento no es un paseo por el arco iris. El activismo por los derechos humanos en un movimiento global con más de 3 millones de miembros tiene también sus días de lluvia, sus nubarrones y sus tormentas. Para salir ilesos de los procesos democráticos (con todas sus consecuencias), hay que comprender que no hay alternativa a la gobernanza democrática. Como decía un compañero de AI Irlanda hace unos días, la democracia no es buena, pero es necesaria. Una organización como Amnistía Internacional, que aspira a movilizar a personas de todo el mundo por la libertad, la igualdad, la participación activa… necesariamente ha de predicar con el ejemplo. Los entendidos dirían que es una cuestión de política prefigurativa. Gandhi lo ponía más llano: Sé el cambio que quieres ver en el mundo.

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More voices: Making more noise about human rights

Having emerged on the other side of the 2011 Amnesty International ICM with an extensive global Amnesty family, we should never forget how international we are. The strength of our international relationships within the movement, as well as our partnerships, has brought us to where we are today, on our 50th anniversary.

However, we are still in a situation where many countries are still without Amnesty International sections but are facing human rights abuses, not necessarily because they want to be but because it is politically dangerous for people of these countries to demonstrate views that are in opposition to the government’s. As Aung San Suu Kyi stated in her video statement to the ICM, “Amnesty is almost synonymous with human rights,” so we should continue to strive to help empower those who want to fight human rights violations.

On Amnesty International’s 50th birthday, there is still a strong divide between the global North and South. However, with continued work to empower more people in the South, we can aim for an evenly spread Amnesty, all over the world. Despite this hope, the ultimate goal would be for us to no longer need to exist. This must not take the form of growth, but rather, empowerment, impact and activism in local communities, sharing concrete and strategic ideas in order for people to feel inspired and confident enough to take action.

Empowerment comes through skills sharing, and where we need to go next is towards more global skills sharing events. Furthermore, empowerment should not be a one-way process, but a discussion and a dialogue about what is done well already in the global South and North, including countries that would like an Amnesty International section, because everyone has as much to learn as the other.

We have seen that Amnesty International is a human organisation that is dependant on people for its successes and failures. It means that we’re fallible, but that at the same time we can gain strength from any challenges we encounter.

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S’il fallait conclure ce Conseil en quelques mots…

Que peut-on bien retenir de ces jours? L’heure de la conclusion a sonné, avec dans les esprits cette ultime question. Pour y répondre, chaque participant devrait épuiser des pages entières pour le dire, avec les détails selon ses priorités. Mais s’il est un souvenir qui restera plus longtemps dans les esprits, c’est celui d’une semaine très riche en réflexion et en actions. Des nuits très dansantes aussi ! On ne pouvait rêver d’une meilleure occasion pour fêter les cinquante ans d’Amnesty International qu’une rencontre pareille.

Et d’abord l’essentiel. Réfléchir, réfléchir et encore réfléchir. La réflexion a été permanente au cours de ce conseil, notamment au cours d’un certains nombre de sessions qui aborder des thèmes relatifs a l’avenir du travail d’Amnesty International. Des sessions qui se sont toujours termines par des exercices qui ont tout simplement lancé les bases d’une réflexions a poursuivre. C’est par exemple le sujet de la technologie et droits humains, le « moving closer the ground », le « One financial Amnesty…et que pourront-on dire des travaux de groupes qui ont permis de travailler les résolutions et facilite la partie décision de ce Conseil International.

Plus convaincus que jamais. Des témoignages donnes au cours des sessions ont renforcé la conviction que le travail engage dans plusieurs domaines comme la campagne « Exigeons la dignité », a été un succès. Mais un succès qui ne doit pas cacher le reste à faire. Les participants s’en sont bien rendu compte en écoutant le témoignage émouvant donne par Jacqueline Kasha sur la dure vie des LGBT en Ouganda

Sans oublier l’action. Le conseil international ne s’est pas limité à ces réflexions. Il a également été un vaste champ d’actions. Actions traditionnelles de signatures de pétitions qui ont bénéficié du dynamisme et de la créativité des jeunes.

Et la démocratie. Le Conseil international, ce fut également le champ d’un exercice démocratique. De la prise de décision aux élections des membres des différents organes décisionnels, la démocratie était au rendez-vous. Cela a permis a n’en point douter, a prendre des décisions que l’on peut qualifier d’historiques. Tout cela avec l’espoir que le mouvement ira encore plus de l’avant.

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Amnesty International at 50 Years: Moving forward

“Growth is not a goal in and of itself.  Our aim is to decrease human rights violations.”  – Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty

2011 marks Amnesty International’s fiftieth anniversary.  Fifty years ago, attorney Peter Benenson wrote an appeal to free two Portuguese students who had been imprisoned for toasting to freedom.  This letter to the Observer newspaper in the UK marked the beginning of Amnesty International, and a worldwide movement to realize human rights.

Since then, Amnesty has overcome many challenges and celebrated many successes.  Throughout the world, Amnesty International accompanies individuals on their journey to realize their human rights.  These successes have been highlighted here at the International Council Meeting.  Examples include Amnesty International Ghana’s work to halt forced evictions, the UK section’s work in the realm of corporate responsibility, lobbying against Shell’s negative effects in the Niger Delta, and Amnesty Ireland’s work to advocate for adoption of a new protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  The examples of success in human rights realizations are countless.  Here at the ICM, the mood has been realistic and reflective, but also optimistic and determined for a positive future of progressive human rights realizations.

A prominent theme at the ICM has been Amnesty’s plans to move ‘closer to the ground’, closer to the hearts and minds of our partners, working in collaborative partnership.  This invites an interesting theme:  structure vs. flexibility.  It is clear that as Amnesty charts a new path, it will be important not to think in false dichotomies. Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty emphasized this in an address at the ICM, stating that Amnesty must work to maintain their global framework while also continually improving local presence and latitude to operate on a local level.  These have been themes here at the ICM – finding innovative ways to integrate global vs. local, and international vs. grassroots.  Moving our work closer to the ground presents high potential to foster a system of collaborative social change, where each partner learns equally from the other.  Ideally, the results will be true, collaborative social change and partnership.

Moving forward, Amnesty International will face challenges, but there is no doubt that it is advancing in the right direction.  While maintaining a thoughtful, critical, approach, Amnesty must journey forward in the quest for dignity, equality, and justice for all. It will increase Amnesty’s future sustainability and effectiveness.  It will lend legitimacy because no one knows the local culture, customs and human rights landscape as well as the local population!  It will be key to increasing our effectiveness and realizing a vision that every person will enjoy human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international standards.

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Momentos destacados de la RCI 2011

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La 30ª Reunión del Consejo Internacional de Amnistía Internacional se clausuró el 19 de agosto de 2011. Estos son algunos de los momentos más destacados.

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