A year in campaigning
Outraged by human rights abuses, and inspired by hope for a better world, Amnesty International works to improve human rights through public pressure and international solidarity. While some in power try to exacerbate divisions for their own ends, our members, supporters and allies around the globe remain united and committed to campaigning for the realization of all human rights for all people.
Amnesty International is independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion. It does not support or oppose any government or political system, nor does it necessarily support the views of those whose rights it seeks to protect. To ensure its independence, it does not seek or accept money from governments or political parties for its work in documenting and campaigning against human rights abuses. Its funding depends on the contributions of its worldwide membership and fundraising activities. All the money donated to Amnesty International goes towards helping end human rights abuses, wherever they occur.
Amnesty International's vision is of a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards. In pursuit of this vision, Amnesty International’s mission is to undertake research and action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of the rights to physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and expression, and freedom from discrimination, within the context of its work to promote all human rights.
AI is unique among human rights organizations in its strategic channelling of the passion and outrage of ordinary people around the world. AI’s members and supporters exert influence on governments, armed political groups, companies and intergovernmental bodies. They change the lives of individuals – of victims and survivors of human rights abuses, of human rights activists and defenders, and even of the abusers.
The activism of AI’s 2.2 million members and supporters, working alongside international and local partners, converts AI’s research into a force for change. Activists confront governments, other institutions and individuals, not only through letters, emails and petitions but by mobilizing public pressure through street protests, vigils and direct lobbying. Thousands of AI members respond to Urgent Action appeals on behalf of individuals at immediate risk. Publicity through the news media and online takes AI’s message swiftly and in a range of languages to millions more.
AI members invent creative and innovative forms of activism, both online and on the streets. In 2006, for example, AI Paraguay organized “toy gun swaps” in the run-up to Christmas, offering new toys to children in exchange for toy weapons, and street theatre to persuade parents not to buy them. AI Morocco carried out a survey on poverty and government responsibility, and AI Australia sought the public’s view on the country’s new anti-terror laws. AI Norway prepared to launch its online “pledge banking”, where activists pledge to undertake a campaigning activity if enough others join in.
The key areas of focus for AI in 2006 were Control Arms; Stop Violence against Women, in particular domestic violence; torture and other abuses in the “war on terror”; the need for a peacekeeping force to protect civilians in Darfur, Sudan; and the conflict between Israeli forces and Hizbullah fighters based in Lebanon.
The Individual at the Core
At the heart of all AI’s campaigns is the individual – as the victim and survivor of human rights abuses, as the partner in the defence of human rights, and as the activist speaking out and working with and for other individuals. Whether global or local, aimed at governments or multilateral institutions, focusing on one person in danger of torture or on a police service that needs training in responding effectively to domestic violence, all campaigns are generated and fired by the individual at their centre in need of protection or support.
The global connection between individuals is a motivating force behind all AI campaigns.
It lies behind much of the activism of new human rights groups working at local, grassroots and community level. Such human rights defenders may be both victims and activists, struggling to achieve their own rights as well as those of their family or community. Working with such human rights defenders is as much about seeking structural changes to create the space in which people can organize and protest as it is about helping the individuals themselves.
Campaigning can achieve real improvements in the lives of individuals.
Individual members of AI forge global links of solidarity with survivors, human rights defenders and their families. The human face in AI’s work inspires and mobilizes members, and attracts wider support in society and from governments. AI presents the cases of individuals not as advocates working solely for one beneficiary, but to benefit all individuals experiencing similar abuses, to shift public opinion or to focus attention on mass violations, and to win changes in policy and practice. Offering that human context demonstrates starkly to governments and the public the consequences of failing to protect human rights.
Completing the Circle - the Individual in the International Arena
AI continued to take its work on behalf of individuals up to the international arena, campaigning for universal support for the International Criminal Court and for an end to impunity. It pushed hard for those responsible for the most serious crimes known to humanity to be brought to justice before international or national courts.
After years of campaigning by AI and others, Nigeria surrendered former Liberian President Charles Taylor in March to the Special Court for Sierra Leone on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, relating to his involvement in the country’s civil war.
In March, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, charged with enlisting and recruiting child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, became the first person to be arrested and surrendered to the International Criminal Court.
Years of campaigning by AI and others saw progress in July when the Assembly of the African Union requested Senegal to promptly prosecute former Chadian President Hissène Habré, who is charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture. AI urged Senegal to enact the necessary legislation, and Senegal’s Council of Ministers in November adopted a law to permit Hissène Habré to be tried.
Holding to account those responsible for human rights abuses in the past not only gives justice to the victims and survivors. It is an essential part of AI’s struggle to protect against abuses of other individuals’ rights in the present, and to prevent them in the future.