Focusing on human rights

The UN General Assembly proclaimed 10 December as Human Rights Day in 1950, to bring to the attention ‘of the peoples of the world’ the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.

I’ve had a few weeks of human rights events from film festivals, galas and write-a-thons, to meetings about fundraising and celebrations, and the odd flash mob and late night party. The focal point is Human Rights Day, and so in the days leading up to December 10th there is a flurry of related activities as each human rights organization contributes to the cause.

It’s been interesting to compare approaches of traditional organizations and newer Gen-Y driven efforts. Gatherings in cluttered spaces with crackers, cheese and soda versus those in grand venues with high end catering. There is deep knowledge etched in the faces of those that have been involved in this field for a while and youthful energy to tap into among some of the new recruits.

The field of human rights is tough

For many people, it’s dangerous to be involved in the human rights movement. For the victims of human rights abuses, it is probably life threatening. Human rights violations could happen anywhere and for sure are happening in Canada and the US, in addition to all those countries you hear about. The wins to resolve these violations can take years but they do come.

Collaboration offsets donor fatigue

When it comes to events there could be better collaboration between organizations, lessening the noise and increasing the impact. When so many events are booked around a pivotal date it makes sense to come together. Differentiation is possible even with a united call to action. With budgets constrained, a collaborative event offers economies of scale to the charities, while giving the attendees a richer experience.

The best of the old and new

Social innovation is transforming the human movement, just like with most other non profit sectors. This brings new methods, audiences and expectations. The differences were blatant as I attended two different human rights film festivals, one traditional and one of the new generation. Human rights draws in all ages and all backgrounds, and this would produce a rich conversation if we can get them talking to each other.

Early in the year I chose to take on a volunteer role with Amnesty International Canada. This is an important organization and a leader in the field. I am a newbie in this field and have lots to learn, but along with some of my Gen Y pals, I think we also have knowledge to share.


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