On the November 27, the University of York Amnesty International Society welcomed Hannah Perry, the Vice Chair of the UK Amnesty International discussing her involvement in Amnesty projects and the importance of human rights to the organizational work.
Hannah started by explaining her personal interest in human rights issues by emphasising the important role of her family, which encouraged her to help others as much as possible. Her personal interest developed further during her travels in Syria, Jordan, India, where she witnessed the multiple human rights problems and the hypocrisy in Western discourse about the human rights situation in developing countries. As a result, she came to the conclusion that human rights represents an integral part of our daily lives and we should all take the necessary efforts to make positive changes in this area.
These views, as Hannah expressed, helped her to understand that individuals should play a key role in helping others to achieve these human rights, especially in places where there are numerous problems in this area. She contrasted this approach with a dominant understanding of human rights as a something extra to our normal individual integrity, advocating instead human rights as something which everyone deserves by belonging to individual political community.
She then explained her involvement in Amnesty International campaigns, which are a central part of the organisational activity. Hannah emphasized that campaigns are created and organised according to three considerations. Firstly, the central organising principle for a campaign is how important is the specific human rights problem in a particular state and how the campaign can improve the position of the people, suffering from this human right violation? Secondly, it is also important to consider how the public are going to relate to the issue, which can positively or negatively affect the success of any campaigns. Finally, it is also important to contemplate, what the legal situation is around the problem.
The fundamental principle, in her words, which unites all the Amnesty activity is a commitment towards the value of individual life and rights, which are approached not as luxury; but as a basic pre-condition for personal development and integrity. In this context, the concrete achievement of Amnesty International is to improve the life of people within specific societies. Furthermore, the ability to raise internationally the profile of issues and to change the law, particularly through UN Conventions, is considered to be an important objective for the organisation.
Hannah concluded her talk by emphasising the important challenges that the human rights situation faces in the world today. The first challenge is to prove to individuals that political power is in their hands, which means they can make a change for the better if they unite their efforts, regardless of their personal differences. The second challenge is to tackle indifference, which some people experience when they know that human rights violations are far from them or their personal experience. However, even if people are not indifferent, they often experience anger regarding the human rights violations, which should always be channelled in an appropriate way to make positive change in our complex world. Finally, while we all leave in a media lead generation, the media can often turn a blind eye on some stories of human rights abuses, which require us as individuals to develop a critical approach and ability to think for ourselves to change of the vulnerable people in our planet. Once we know how to tackle these challenges successfully, regularly and productively, the international efforts to help our fellow beings in times of need will be strengthened considerably.