To round off Refugee Week here at DW, we have awarded Amnesty International with our Charity of the Month title for August 2013.
With a global movement of 4.6 million supporters across 150 countries, Amnesty International is the world’s largest human rights organisation. Their vision is for a world in which every person enjoys all the rights stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.
When human rights are violated, Amnesty International stands to seek out the facts, expose what’s happening, and mobilise their vast number of supporters to put pressure on governments and other authorities to stop the violations. Australia alone has over 250,000 supporters, with around 170 local action groups nationwide, as well as an additional 260+ school groups who are all helping to defend human rights and dignity throughout the land down under.
Spending a Friday afternoon at Amnesty International Australia’s head office in Sydney, I sought to find out a little more about the Aussie branch and what they’re focusing on at the moment.
Refugees & Asylum-Seekers
A main focal point for Amnesty International Australia this month – as well as for DW Online – has been on refugees. The Hot Potato campaign, which ran for 10 days throughout August, was a people’s campaign and road trip aiming to debunk myths about asylum seekers and inform Australians with ‘facts, not fears’.
The Hot Potato food truck, carrying with it around 10,000 potatoes, travelled to various hot spots around Australia to meet with key people in the asylum-seeker debate and give the sceptics a chance to meet the ‘boat people’ they may already have made their minds up about.
With Sri Lankan and Indonesian jacket potatoes on the menu, visitors could collect their free potato, pull up a seat, and join the conversation on asylum-seekers. Special guests included celebrities, politicians, human rights lawyers and big name music acts, adding to the campaign’s great response, which engaged thousands of people across Australia.
The campaign was also hosted by an Aussie celeb, Imogen Bailey, who first got involved with Amnesty International when she participated in the hit TV show ‘Go Back To Where You Came From’. Amnesty International were consultants on the show and Imogen has been a keen supporter ever since.
End the Death Penalty
Other notable campaigns include Amnesty International’s ongoing efforts to abolish the death penalty worldwide. Since their campaigning began back in 1961, two thirds of the world’s countries have abolished its use. Amnesty International is completely opposed to capital punishment in all circumstances, and their tireless work will continue on until every nation worldwide has abolished the death penalty too.
DW Online ran an article in June 2013 about the Bali 9 – two of whom are currently on death row in Indonesia. Amnesty International Australia continue to campaign on behalf of Chan and Sukumaran, working with Reprieve Australia and campaigning alongside the two’s lawyers. While the media surrounding the pair is on the quiet side at the moment while the Government are in talks, Amnesty International has partnered with the Australian media to ensure that pressure will continue to be applied.
The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)
April 2013 brought about a historic day at Amnesty International – a story which seems to be a favourite amongst the staff in the Australian office. In a landmark move, with the culmination of more than 20 years of campaigning by organisations including Amnesty International, governments at the United Nations adopted an Arms Trade Treaty.
The Treaty prohibits states from transferring weapons to countries when they know those weapons will be used to commit genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. In the UN General Assembly, 154 states voted to adopt the treaty just days after Iran, North Korea and Syria – three human rights-abusing countries under some form of UN sanctions – tried to block it. All three voted against the treaty and 23 other states abstained.
The treaty also obligates all governments to assess the risk of transferring arms, ammunition or components to another country where they could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. Where the overriding risk is real and cannot be mitigated, states have agreed the transfer will not go forward.
This phenomenal progress, in which we finally saw human rights being put before the profitable arms trade, gave Amnesty supporters even more of a reason to party in August this year after Nigeria became one of the first handful of nations to ratify the Treaty. It is hoped that Nigeria’s signing of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) will pave the way for more African nations to follow suit.
Since it opened for signature on 3 June this year at the United Nations in New York, more than 80 countries from every region of the world have signed. Many more countries – including key arms-producing countries in the European Union – are currently in the process of ratifying the ATT.
Coming up in Amnesty International Australia’s busy schedule; post elections, the debate on refugees and asylum-seekers will remain ongoing, and early next year their campaigns for Indigenous justice will be brought back to the forefront again. The rest, for now, is still under wraps.
Founded in 1961, Amnesty International inspires people around the world to take action against human rights abuses. Check out their other campaigns and get involved today. Click here to go to their website.
written by Victoria Garside