Monthly Archives: April 2010

Conference Leaves Me Inspired, Exhausted and Re-energised

The title to this post may be confusing. However, i’m confident most delegates who attended left the AIUK conference feeling exhausted from the non-stop meetings and socialising over the weekend. But from my conversations with others and personal experience I know that they are all fired up with ideas, passion and revitalised with enthusiasm and energy to campaign for human rights. Today had three main parts. The first was completing the debate and voting on resolutions. Then came a panel discussion on engaging with the new global powers with panel members with expertise on Russia, South Africa and India. The key point is for Amnesty to be creative, to be aware of local context and use different strategies in each country. To hear about the successes from each country and the challenges was inspiring. There has been quite a lot of success in terms of civil and political rights in South Africa but more work to be done on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The last part of the day was the celebration of what activists have achieved through the infamous Dan Jones awards for outstanding activism. These were presented by Lady Godiva (an impersonator anyway). There were examples of my former University of York Amnesty group campaigning on Shell, Dover Grammar school organising a Santa run for Troy Davis, Buxton AI group going to Paris to the Laos embassy there (not one in UK) regarding a political prisoner and fantastic fundraising by Leeds AI group through music events. My highlight though was the Solihull Amnesty International group winning an award for their innovative fundraising through a milking competition at the Knowle Festival (in their absence I collected an award on their behalf). Congratulations to them for their success.

One thing I’d like to get across to local members who haven’t been to a National Conference and AGM is that the experience is truly inspiring. To meet hundreds of ordinary people who undertake such amazing activism like many Amnesty group and individual members here in the West Midlands just makes me energised to want to do more and gives me a sense of collective pride in what we all do. I do hope those who haven’t been before will consider attending in future as it is well worth it.

PS. Also met members from Worcester and Wolverhampton today and aware that there were members present from Mid-Warwicks too.

A Day Full of Inspiration #aiagm

Yesterday I had a wonderfully inspiring day at conference. I’ve met members of local groups from the region including Malvern Hills, Telford, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Bournville, Central Birmingham and Wythall. The day started with Way Min from Burma lighting the Amnesty candle and a round-up of the past year from Tom Hedley, Chair of AIUK and Kate Allen, the AIUK Director. Kate Allen said ‘The moral courage of Amnesty’s activists here and elsewhere keep the candle burning for human rights’ and the determination, enthusiasm and passion of our members at the AGM certainly backs this up.

The day moved on with sessions including working parties on the various resolutions and discussion and voting on some. Andy from Bournville was impassioned in support of his motion on LGBT Rights saying we shouldn’t shy away from holding the Catholic Church to account on their record because they are powerful and we might upset them. I also attended a session on Amnesty at 50 with the anniversary being next May (2011).

The key note speaker was John Kampfner, Chief Executive of the organisation, Index on Censorship who discussed how in many countries people appear to accept the loss of freedoms in exchange for prosperity and security. He questioned how effective this was and why people succumb to authoritarianism. To find out more on Index on Censorship see http://www.indexoncensorship.org/

The action for the day ended with an action on Shell where through our passionate calls for Shell to Put out the Flares both in English and Ebo (I assume the native tongue in the Niger Delta region) we put out the flares in Warwick. I would anticipate photos and video of this action on the AIUK website in the coming days. We then relaxed and socialised. Looking forward to what today has to offer.

Putting Human Rights On The Politcal Agenda #aiagm

Been to a workshop about getting human rights on the politcal agenda in the run-up to the General Election. It is important with an average of 350-400 Amnesty members in each constituency that we use them to our advantage. Amnesty International UK is encouraging us all to use them as a chance to influence, gather intelligence and develop relationships with the candidates standing.

We had an interesting session sharing our tips and ideas on how to do this. Being polite and persistent in your communication was highlighted as being important. Finding out their individual interests and playing to them was mentioned. Also discussed was making sure to thank them when they support you, sending handwritten letters and encouraging other constituents to contact them on human rights issues too. Social media can be useful too.

If you want to take part in putting human rights on the politcal agenda please visit www.amnesty.org.uk/election and of course leave any comments below.

PS I’ve used the hashtag above so other delegates can see this post on Twitter.

National Conference and AGM

This weekend i’m at th Amnesty International UK Conference and AGM. In order to give you an idea of what goes on here and update you on what Amnesty is up to I will be blogging on here and tweeting from www.twitter.com/wmai

Today i’ve been at the Regional Forum which is where the regional reps discuss what is going on in the local groups in their regions and feed back on the developments and policies of the AI UK section. We’ve been discussing the local groups strategy, how training should be developed and looking at resolutions for the conference. What is fantastic are the amazing work that Amnesty groups do and the amazing initiatives that go on. It will be great to hear directly from activists what they’ve been up to and meet the many friends I’ve made at past events.

If you are at the conference and reading this post do leave a comment.

Local Amnesty Activist Takes Your Photos to Japanese Embassy

Last Wednesday, 10th March, Anna Smart (local activist and East Asia Regional Coodinator) took photos of the local Shrewsbury Amnesty Group and many other activists to the Japanese Embassy as part of a large birthday card for Hakamada Iwao.

The case of the world’s longest serving death row prisoner is one that has particularly
grabbed the attention of activists over the last year or so.  Many people Anna speaks to are
surprised that Japan still uses the death penalty at all.  It is even more shocking that
someone can be sentenced to death having had an unfair trial and then left waiting to die
for over forty years.

Continue reading

Solihull Fundraising Success

Solihull Amnesty International raised £637 at the annual street collection on 20 February. Thank you very much to all who helped raise such a fabulous amount of money.

I Support Amnesty Because… There Are So Many Ways To Take Part

I support Amnesty because there are so many ways for people to take part. As an Amnesty activist myself I have done a huge variety of volunteer roles. I’ve been a group chair, group secretary, campaign coordinator, letter writer, organised events, lobbied my MP, worked on stalls, blogged, organised group socials, been first person new members have met, issued press releases, given training to local groups, and much, much, more. The truth is with Amnesty you can usually do what you want to support human rights especially as part of a local group. I have had a fantastic time, made many good friends and even added some skills to my CV. You can do this most easily as part of a local group but you can also do a lot as an individual. If you are already doing something with Amnesty please leave a comment below and share your experience.