It is increasingly difficult to find positives when your friend has been on hunger strike for 50 days and has declared that he will pursue it to freedom or death. The shadow of despair gnaws at your heart as the days grind by. [Read more…]
I was only able to watch just over an hour of Sports Relief on the BBC last night so I confess upfront that I may have missed the bit where they showed respect for and gave voice to Africans working for a better Africa. The bits I saw (thanks son) were toe-curlingly awful poverty-porn. I don’t want to criticise the commitment of millions of donors or stars such as John Bishop who clearly had genuine empathy and commitment to those they were trying to help. But they were let down badly by the producers and editors who shaped the broadcast. The days of Geldof arguing African artists don’t sell broadcast rights should be behind us. [Read more…]
This is the beginning of the end of our military engagement in Afghanistan. We started with a legitimate mission to remove the threat of al Qaeda in the aftermath of 9/11. We can argue about whether Bush took his eye off the ball because of Iraq or not, but the reality is that what became an anti-Taliban war strategy has failed. It has failed militarily, they have not been defeated and both NATO and the Afghan Government now want to negotiate a peace with them. It has failed politically because we have invested in an Afghan Government that is weak and corrupt.
It was perhaps over ambitious when, from the 2001 Bonn conference onwards, commitments were made about human rights, particularly women’s rights and democracy, as part of the reconstruction of Afghanistan. It was certainly disingenuous to talk the talk but not invest the political and economic resources to walk the walk. A generation of Afghans who believed in trying to build a better future for their country feel betrayed. [Read more…]
The Kony2012 video produced by Invisible Children has gone viral and although it is 30 minutes long has been viewed by 75 million people (and rising) since its launch at the start of this week. Apparently most of them under 25 years old. It has also provoked an avalanche of criticism from “experts,” but also more importantly from people in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa.
Ethan Zuckerman wrote Unpacking Kony2012 one of the best commentaries to the #Kony2012 phenomenon. A freedom of expression advocate and supporter of bloggers worldwide he starts his article by saying: “the Kony 2012 campaign is a story about simplification and framing. Whether you ultimately support Invisible Children’s campaign – and I do not – it’s important to think through why it has been so successful in attracting attention online and the limits to the methods used by Invisible Children.“ Marc DuBois has also blogged perceptively and amusingly on how “the aid industry has just been Biebered.” [Read more…]
I was at the former seat of British power in Ireland on Friday for the 12th Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade NGO Forum on human rights in Dublin Castle. This was the annual consultation with Irish based NGOs about priorities and I was the rapporteur of the working group on human rights in Irish Foreign Policy.
One of the issues discussed was whether, given the financial challenges Ireland faces, could they continue to give a priority to human rights and international development in their foreign policy. The answer from Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore was yes (1). But it did of course provoke some thoughts on priorities for a soon to be independent Scotland.
Bahrain seems to have come to an impasse. Brutal repression, torture, killings, unfair trials and media censorship has not been able to silence a mass movement for change as was clear from the huge numbers demonstrating in Manama in the last weeks. And yet the Government is apparently paralysed and unable to engage in serious reform.
The mass demonstrations reinforce the fear and loathing of a privileged elite who have done so well out of autocratic rule. The longest serving unelected Prime Minister in the world is clearly an obstacle to any progress and yet he clings grimly to power. And the Saudi Arabians pull the hardliners strings
It is in this context that human rights defender Abdulhadi Alkhawaja announced a hunger strike unto “freedom or death.” Abdulhadi is my friend and former colleague at Front Line Defenders. [Read more…]
The pictures of the slaughter of civilians in Syria have provoked frustration and revulsion around the world. There is an understandable feeling that something must be done. When even a mild UN Security Council resolution was vetoed by Russia and China there were increased calls for international intervention.
Steven A Cook writing in The Atlantic on 17th January argued for military intervention and Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Doha Center commented that he hoped the article would be influential. I responded via Twitter that I hoped not, and that I could not see how air strikes would make a terrible situation better. Steven A Cook responded to me with: “how do you claim to defend human rights, but refuse to consider the possibility of action to protect humans?” [Read more…]
Twelve months ago the world was astonished by the sudden crumbling of totalitarian rule live on television as President Ben Ali fled Tunisia and mass protests erupted in Egypt. Legions of so called “experts” scrambled to revise their scripts and Western diplomats discovered their “realpolitik” had not been very realistic. The triumph of hope over fear was the theme tune for what was dubbed the Arab Spring. And the tremors shook the complacency of rulers around the globe.
There was of course a backlash. But all was changed, changed utterly. And human rights defenders (HRDs), those who work to protect the rights of others, were key actors in the movements to secure justice and accountability. [Read more…]