As you may already know, you can flattr some charities via givv.org. In this series we’ll introduce these organisations, give an overview about their work and bring them a bit closer to our everyday lives. Let’s start with Amnesty International:
“Open your newspaper any day of the week and you will find a story from somewhere of someone being imprisoned, tortured or executed because his opinions or religion are unacceptable to his government. The newspaper reader feels a sickening sense of impotence… “
This was Peter Benenson’s motivation to campaign against the abuse of human rights in 1961. The British lawyer’s article about two Portuguese students who were imprisoned because of saying toast to freedom quickly spread around the world and happened to be the base of Amnesty International. The fact that you probably recognise the name and know something about their activities proves its success during the last decades. What has started as an appeal to grow attention to those who are “imprisoned, tortured or executed because of his opinions or religion unacceptable to his government” soon became an international movement.
In 1961 an office and library was formed and local groups of volunteers called ‘Threes’ were working on behalf of three prisoners each. To represent the impartiality of the groups, the prisoners were chosen from different geographical and political areas.
The first (amnesty) candle was lit in London on Human Rights Day, 10 December, and the decision to set up a permanent organisation was made at a conference in Berlin in 1962.
As they were growing, international bodies were established to manage the national organisations. Their recognition also increased: The United Nations and later UNESCO gave consultative status to AI and the organisation won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977 for its “outstanding contributions in the field of human rights”.
From the early days Amnesty was campaigning with Postcards for Prisoners and in the first decade more than 2000 prisoners of conscience were released. One of the most famous AI fundraising events, called The Secret Policeman’s Ball, started in 1976, where famous comedians and musicians – like Monty Python and Eric Clapton – helped to raise support and awareness for Amnesty’s work. Music is still an important part in AI’s work; another example is their ‘Make some Noise’ series started 2007 to save Darfur.
In the first three decades AI has broadened its scope and campaigned for/against several international and local issues. Amnesty is working with and for individuals and campaigning for human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for all. After their research they take action to prevent and end abuses of these rights. They campaign by
- public demonstrations
- human rights education
- awareness-raising concerts
- direct lobbying
- targeted appeals
- email petitions and other online actions
- partnerships with local groups
- community activities
- co-operation with student groups
AI campaigns today include: Demand Dignity, Abolish the Death Penalty, Stop Violence Against Women, Counter Terror with Justice, Control Arms, and Demand the “Three Freedoms” for Myanmar.
What you can do:
People may think that the problems Amnesty is dealing with don’t affect them and are too distant to care. However AI has offices in 80 counties and their 2.8 million members and supporters are from 150 countries of the world. The national offices concentrate on local issues as well and there are several ways you can contribute. Instead of listing them here, I will give you some links where you can read more about Amnesty’s current actions:
And of course, you can flattr Amnesty »
The quote above ends with this message: “Yet if these feelings of disgust could be united into common action, something effective could be done.”