Last week, we traveled to Ireland for the Dublin Platform, an annual gathering that brings together over 100 human rights defenders from 70+ countries around the world. Often, these human rights defenders experience enormous risks in their work. They’ve put their lives on the line in pursuit of justice and freedom for marginalized people. Organized by Front Line, AJWS’s collegial partner, the goals of the Dublin Platform are to expose and analyze how human rights defenders are repressed; offer a space for human rights defenders to learn how to minimize risks in the work they do; and provide an opportunity to make practical recommendations to influence human rights work on an international level.
1. Mary Lawlor, Front Line’s executive director, opened the Platform with a moving tribute to a number of human rights defenders who lost their lives over the past couple of years, including David Kato and Bety Cariño. Kato worked closely with many of AJWS’s partners to fight Uganda’s anti-homosexuality legislation and was murdered in January of this year. Cariño, executive director of CACTUS (Centro de Apoyo Comunitario Trabajando Unidos) in Mexico, was murdered in April 2010. Her powerful words, spoken at the 5th Dublin Platform, are in the epigraph of AJWS’s grantmaking strategy paper, “Risk and Responsibility: Protecting Human Rights Defenders”:
Today we want to live another history: we are rebelling and we are saying enough is enough, today and here, we want to say that they are afraid of us because we are not afraid of them, because despite their threats, despite their slander, despite their harassment, we continue to walk towards a sun which we think shines strongly.
2. Many human rights defenders—from Syria, the Russian Federation, Ghana, Australia and elsewhere across the globe—gave personal testimonies about their lives and work. Among them was James Kofi Annan, executive director of AJWS’s grantee Challenging Heights, who gave a particular shout out to AJWS for our support when he and Challenging Heights were under threat.
3. Another AJWS collegial partner Tactical Technology Collective launched its Ono Robot project—a series of animated short films developed to introduce human rights defenders to IT security issues and provide simple tactics for bolstering security. You can see examples of the series at www.onorobot.org.
4. Maini Kiai, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and Association, gave a presentation on the relationship between grassroots human rights defenders and international human rights bodies. He noted, for example, how effective it can be for local activists to issue a public invitation to a UN Special Rapporteur as part of a campaign to “name and shame” their national governments for human rights abuses.
The Platform was a reminder of how important it is to build relationships between and among human rights defenders, and how critical it is that we continue to protect them in all levels of their work.