The second plenary session of day three of the ICM was about achieving a more global presence for Amnesty, and about how we should approach this as a movement.
Since its founding in 1961, Amnesty has grown from a small group of people that gathered around Peter Benenson’s ‘Appeal for Amnesty’, to one of the world’s largest NGOs with over three million members and supporters. However, the vast majority of these members and supporters live in Europe and North America. For Amnesty to become a truly global organization, we need to make an effort to increase Amnesty’s presence in the Global South. Two countries Amnesty will focus on in the near future are India, the world’s largest democracy, and Brazil, South America’s largest and most populous nation. Both countries offer a great potential for local human rights activism. Brazil and India are among the world’s emerging powers and will most certainly play a crucial role for the development of the situation of human rights worldwide. During the plenary session, delegates heard about the exciting first new steps taken in both countries from the newly appointed director of Amnesty International Brazil and the managing trustee of Amnesty International India Foundation.
Growth must never be an end in itself. We want Amnesty to grow in order to achieve a larger impact on human rights worldwide. The more we can do to convince and inspire the public to join our cause and thus grow our movement, the more relevant and successful Amnesty will be in fighting to protect human rights worldwide. And we must look at growth of local activism: Amnesty is a grassroots organization, led democratically by its worldwide membership. It’s about people like you and me taking concrete action for the defence of human rights and raising awareness about human rights.
Later during the plenary session, representatives from Amnesty International Kenya and Venezuela told us about how they approached growing their work in their countries and shared their success stories. Both countries have seen their efforts lead to vibrant local human rights activism and impact. Other Amnesty sections will learn from these positive experiences. Amnesty International Australia also presented its story. The tremendous growth over the past 10 years has helped the Australian section to become a strong voice against discrimination of refugees, immigrants and the indigenous population. The immense local relevance of this work has helped to build strong activism surrounding these topics and to raise more vital funds for our human rights work – an example illustrating the interdependence between growth and impact.