As Amnesty International is preparing to begin helping to empower Brazil and India through human rights activism and actions, so it is necessary to remember why Amnesty needs to move closer to its work in the Global South. Salil Shetty placed emphasis on something that we should take away from this ICM, that “growth is not an end in itself”, and this morning he tweeted, “Very positive discussions about Amnesty’s future and potential for growth in India and Brazil this morning.” So why is growth through active participation necessary, and how do we separate it from being a means to an end, rather than an ambition that can one day be deemed completed?
Whilst growth in organisations has connotations of finance, in Amnesty International, growth must be first associated with impact, actions, campaigns, and activism, and whilst finances are very important, first and foremost comes working locally with communities to give them the opportunities to empower themselves to make changes.
We heard from several excellent Amnesty guest speakers who gave case studies relating to their countries: a India management trustee via Skype, Atile from Brazil, Carlos from Venezuela, Claire from Australia, and a representative from Amnesty International in Kenya. Whilst all of their case studies were very different, the underlying message was that growth and impact stems from activism and action, and not necessarily collecting membership fees, particularly in Latin America, said Carlos, where the vast majority of the population live in poverty, but if they wish to be, they can be empowered by the opportunity to stand up for their human rights.
In Kenya there is no Amnesty section nor structure, so no members, but there is a vast network of Amnesty supporters backed by various Amnesty sections including Amnesty International Iceland, Finland, and Norway. Nearly 30,000 residents of Kenyan slums were up against those who were trying to repeatedly enforce evictions, and the residents won. Without active participation from Kenyan residents, this would not have been possible for Amnesty to do as a purely international organisation, and this is an example of how it is essential to give those whose human rights are being violated a chance to demonstrate their demands for dignity and human rights. (Kenya’s forced evictions was a very recent Amnesty Demand Dignity campaign). The Kenyan representative stated that within the next year, there will be a meeting with the advisory council of Amnesty International, and within three years, Kenya aims to have its own governance board. Active participation and action is necessary for growth and impact.
Carlos from Venezuela highlighted the current Amnesty International campaign for stopping sexual violence against women and girls and ending the ban on abortion in Nicaragua. He emphasised that Venezuela’s greatest asset for growth is actions, and not finances. This campaign is a precursor to a march on the 28th September that is happening in Nicaragua, empowering especially women and girls in this case to seize their own chances to make a difference. The campaign is revolving around the image of the butterfly, representing growth and the spreading of wings. There have been over 31,400 butterflies created which will be carried at the march in solidarity with the people of Nicaragua, and just this simple action can help others to firmly demand their human rights. You can make a butterfly at the following address, takes only one minute, and will demonstrate your solidarity with Nicaragua, and growth as impact and most importantly, active participation.