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Advice and Guidance (Part 3)
The influence wielded by domestic government officials can make a forceful impression in support of any AI campaign.
AI's mandate covers a range of matters that concern politicians of all shades of opinion. Furthermore, government officials are often victims of human rights violations. Many politicians are likely to react sympathetically to an AI approach.
Groups should try to establish good links with their local political officials, meet with them regularly, and ask them to help with both international and domestic concerns.
Politicians are busy people who receive many requests for help. If they are to respond positively to AI, every approach must be carefully planned and coordinated.
Local groups commonly take responsibility for approaches to municipal or regional politicians, and to local representatives to the national assembly. Section-level governing bodies, staff, or volunteers deal with senior government officials and with the national assembly as a body.
To guard against conflicting requests being made of the same official, therefore, groups should maintain contact with:
To ensure this coordination, each group (being mindful of its limited resources and its overall plan) should consider appointing an experienced member to take charge of this area of work. The most important task of this person is to develop a long-term relationship of trust and confidence between the group and the government official.
Just as AI might approach any influential sector of society, groups reach out to government officials, senior administrators, and political parties, and ask them to join in AI's international campaigning.
They invite political figures to take advantage of their prominent positions and wide contacts to help AI make a stronger appeal to foreign government authorities.
Here are some practical approaches a local group can make:
AI members, when acting publicly on behalf of the movement, must not campaign against specific human rights violations that take place in their own country. This rule safeguards the impartiality of the organization's work and the principle of the international protection of human rights.
AI members may campaign publicly in favour of certain measures that support the AI mandate:
Members may campaign also for domestic legislation that discourages violations elsewhere:
Lobbying for legislative changes such as these is generally initiated by the section, often in consultation with the International Secretariat. In some cases, the approval of the International Secretariat or of AI's International Executive Committee is required before such an initiative is launched.
Whenever any such campaigns are being considered, sections and groups must coordinate their activities carefully. A well-timed combination of high-level and local lobbying, in which AI's case is made simultaneously in the assembly halls and in the streets, reinforces the action and increases the possibility it will be successful.
Members should be particularly mindful of the danger that some political forces may try to use AI in a partisan way. In all its contacts with political figures, AI should aim for a balance among conflicting parties and ideologies so that the movement is seen to be broad-based and impartial.
Forming a good working relationship with local government officials can enhance a group's all-round campaigning.
Here are some basic points to keep in mind when meeting with political figures:
Your AI group can join with other organizations to build pressure for the protection of human rights.
Groups can increase support for their campaigning by reaching outward to work with target sectors _ professional organizations and other social and cultural groupings.
Some sectors of society are likely to respond positively to AI's call for help. Trade unionists, members of religious communities, teachers, journalists and writers, lawyers, health care workers, politicians, and community activists are often committed to the struggle for social justice. People from these walks of life are themselves often the victims of human rights violations.
In these same sectors, and others, there may be many who have never considered working for human rights or had the opportunity to do so. AI groups can help motivate these people to become activists even if they may not wish to become members of AI itself.
AI's aim is to get all of society committed to working for human rights.
AI's allies _ who are they?
Outreach is a routine part of all AI action. It can be seen not as a marginal or optional activity, but as a way of thinking about all campaigning. Imaginative outreach magnifies the impact of every effort that a group makes.
Outreach expands the campaigning forces that are mobilized:
In the long term, outreach encourages the growth and diversification of AI's own membership, and it creates a wider base of general human rights awareness.
Whenever AI asks another organization for its support, the approach must be properly coordinated.
As a general rule, any request for support from other bodies is the responsibility of the parallel level of AI.
To lessen the chance of sending conflicting messages to the target organization, it is good practice for groups also to inform other AI groups in their community of the outreach activities they are planning.
As in all sensitive areas where AI's public image is at stake, groups _ if they have the people available _ might consider appointing members to act as outreach contacts or specialists. These people can take charge of outreach in general, or they can focus on specific sectors where they may already have close links.
Even though it is important for AI to involve other bodies in work on shared concerns, the movement must carry out this activity in ways that do not give the community a wrong impression about AI's mandate, or threaten AI's reputation for impartiality and independence.
AI can give EXTERNAL information to other organizations and encourage them to take action. It can also send representatives to speak to other organizations about AI's mandate and work.
In the case of an activity whose concern falls completely within AI's mandate _ such as torture or the death penalty _ the movement may be able to join with other bodies in public campaigning.
If a public event is open to a large number of organizations (such as a parade) AI can take part as one of these identifiable organizations.
AI can work with other bodies also on long-term projects in human rights education that aim to make people aware of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Although the topics that AI deals with must fall within its limited mandate, the issues taught by other organizations may fall outside this mandate.
Here are some general tips on making the opening approach to an organization in your community:
Here are some of the practical suggestions that an AI group might make to another organization:
In some sections, people have come together to form AI specialist groups of health care workers, lawyers, teachers, artists, journalists, or police and military personnel.
These groups campaign directly on behalf of victims who come from a similar background. They also apply their skills and contacts on behalf of a wide range of victims. They try to inform their colleagues, at home or in the target country, about AI's concerns.
Many of these AI groups function as national coordination groups for the section's outreach to that area. They also focus on making their specialist expertise available to AI community groups and other parts of the movement.
Regularly, the International Secretariat circulates Medical Actions and Lawyers' Actions that are designed to involve members of those professions in working on a current concern. Many sections re-package and distribute these materials to legal and medical workers. Some sections assemble and circulate similar materials that are appropriate for other outreach areas.
The International Secretariat also indexes action documents (such as Urgent Actions) to highlight opportunities for outreach to specific social groups. As well, outreach suggestions are often made in the context of general campaigning advice.
Every year, the movement carries out an International Women's Day Action (8 March) and an International Trade Union Action (1 May).
The International Secretariat distributes case materials and recommends outreach activities. Many sections and groups use these materials (which they sometimes translate or re-package for the benefit of local audiences) to mobilize women's organizations, trade unionists, their own members, and the general public.
From time to time, AI takes advantage of the international contacts held by military and police establishments, and by business and financial institutions, and it asks these bodies to convey the movement's appeals to authorities abroad.
Because of the risk that the organization's mandate and principles may be misunderstood, it handles outreach to these sectors with care.
Making requests for help from military and police officials, for example, is particularly complex. Unlike other sectors whose members are frequently the victims of human rights violations, it is often the military and police that commit these acts.
Approaches to companies are delicate because there is a risk AI will be seen _ wrongly _ to endorse economic or trade sanctions.
When a group is considering making such approaches, it should consult with the section or, in countries where there is no section, with the International Secretariat.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees every person freedom, justice, and equality. One of AI's objectives is to make all people of all ages aware of the basic rights and responsibilities that each possesses, and in the long term, to build a culture of prevention of human rights abuses.
When AI talks about human rights education, it is referring not only to the specific rights that are set out in its mandate, but to the full range of human rights that are set out in the Universal Declaration. Although AI takes action on behalf of a limited number of rights, it is convinced of the importance and of the interdependence of all human rights.
Human rights education is an area where AI is actively interested in working in partnership with other bodies. While the materials it distributes and the issues it presents must fall within its own mandate, AI aims to cooperate with other organizations in the long-term promotion of the full range of human rights.
Every activist can foster broad-based awareness of human rights by joining in the publicity, outreach, and lobbying activities that are part of the ongoing work of AI and of many other organizations. Teachers and students, however, are particularly well-placed to help build a new human rights generation.
The steps your group chooses to take in this area will depend on its own resources and on those of other organizations and teaching institutions in your community. Here are some practical ideas:
m To increase AI's support in the community, many groups will carry out dramatic public actions.
The immediate purpose of these events is to get attention. The publicity they generate can support a current campaign, raise money for the movement, attract new members to the group, or increase human rights awareness in the community.
The type of public events your group will choose to carry out will depend on your overall plan for the year, your resources, and your political and cultural context.
AI groups around the world have held a wide range of public events. Here are some examples:
One of the most dramatic of public events is the simple gathering of people in an important public place, such as a city square.
Assemblies make it possible for every person _ regardless of his or her resources _ to make a statement about human rights.
The very idea of a gathering _ of a coming together of people on behalf of those who can not attend because their rights have been denied _ expresses the community, tolerance, and humanity that are at the heart of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The city square is a powerful symbol of the fight for human rights. When we think of the struggle for justice and freedom, we think of such plazas and boulevards as Wenceslas Square, or the Plaza de Mayo, or Tiananmen Square. These are the public meeting places of the world, where people gather when they demand human rights.
Public events demand careful preparation. Here are some tips:
To safeguard AI's independence and impartiality, the movement avoids any appearance of taking a stand on political causes or on issues that are not within its mandate. As a general practice, therefore, AI does not share with other organizations the responsibility for holding public events.
There are several ways, however, that AI can cooperate with other groups in public campaigning:
Individual members of AI may, of course, take part in any public activity _ provided they do so in their personal capacities and not as representatives of the movement.
Likewise, members of other organizations who are not members of AI can take part in AI's public events, provided they do so in a way that does not give the impression their organization is co-sponsoring the activity.
to generate publicity?
An AI group must not operate in violation of the laws of its own country.
It must not use civil disobedience tactics, where local laws are broken. This includes non-violent activities such as obstructing roads or trespassing.