Today, is International Human Rights Day and while this is good cause for reflection (and depression) about the terrible state of affairs in the world, there are also some remarkable victories to celebrate. Activists around the world are finding new, innovative ways to use technology to tell their stories, and fight back against censorship and oppression.
Yesterday, six Global Voices bloggers on different continents participated in a conference call with Desmond Tutu, Mary Robinson, and Graça Machel. You can listen to an audio recording of the conversation here (thanks to Preetam Rai).
These heroes of human rights have recenltly joined forces with Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi and eight others in a new group called The Elders. And they are asking the world's bloggers and citizen media activists to help them in their campaign to make human rights more relavant to individuals around the world.
A new campaign
The Elders new online campaign, Every Human has Rights is aiming to get as many signatures as possible on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
On openDemocracy's women's rights blog, 5050, I wrote:
… Desmond Tutu said he would like to see “a billion” signatures on it. I wonder how many have even read it? Considering the enormous mailing lists of organizations like Amnesty International, UNICEF, Action Aid, and other who are partnering in the effort, it shouldn’t take too long to reach the first million signatures. But 1 billion signatures? Has that even been done before?
The second goal of the campaign is to get world citizens and activists to upload videos about human rights violations on WITNESS’ new website, The Hub. It's launching in beta mode today. The idea was originally tested in a pilot project on Global Voices in partnership with WITNESS.
Sameer Padania from The HUB was also on the conference call. He wrote in their blog:
… it was left to Graça Machel to speak particularly of human rights organisations at the grassroots. She made clear the Elders’ own feeling of “responsibility to bring forward the stories of the world,” but she recognised the power of new media to do the same with real immediacy, and she appealed to bloggers to bring out “stories of resistance and success.”
And then she hit on what we see as one of the Hub’s most important roles: “For the campaign to be global,” it needs to connect with “small organisations that don’t have the space or the resources to get recognition or power.”
What would you have asked the Elders?
The Elders said they need the help of bloggers as the campaign moves forward and welcome suggestions. We didn't get to ask all our questions as John Kennedy, Global Voices Chinese editor, points out in his account of the conference call in Chinese and English, and to nearly 150 friends on Facebook (how many of the Elders are on Facebook yet, he asks).
Again, what would you have asked these people? … In a discussion on global re-commitment to human rights values led by an internet petition, when do issues like privilege and access get factored in? From where I sit, this could be a redundant issue—when was the last time a North American born during or after the 1980s signed an online petition and did anything to follow through on it? As a regular Facebook user, I probably click off on a dozen a month.
I guess that's where horizontal international perspectives like those which can be found on Global Voices Online come in. What does international perspective even mean to an old freedom fighter like Nelson Mandela in a post-Communism, post-911 world? Does he have a blog yet? Is there even anyone for these Elders to pass the cause on down to? What's so wrong with existing frameworks and networks that people like these would see the need to play the wisdom card as means of continuing to do what they see as right?