AGM '09: Kate Allen, Director's speech (#3)
9:10am Kate Allen, AIUK director takes the stage. She casts her mind back to 1999, one of the last times we gathered in Swansea. Amnesty's campaign for former-General Pinochet of Chile to be brought to justice; the refugee flows out of Kosovo; and moves to establish an International Criminal Court (one of Amnesty's finest, most successful hours).
Kate discusses some of our more recent campaigns, including Stop Violence Against Women, which has achieved some notable successes over the last year, such as the UK's ratification of the Council of Europe convention against trafficking and the recent announcement by the UK Government of moves towards an integrated strategy on violence against women.
I'm startled when I look up from my laptop to see a larger-than-life picture of me on the big screen. All the more startling as, in the picture, I am standing in Belfast masked and dressed as President GW Bush, surrounded by AI activists / Guantanamo detainees, and ripping up a copy of the Geneva Conventions. This campaign action was just one small part of a national and international campaign by AI to close the detention camp and fight unlawfulness in the 'war against terror'. With victories against 42 days detention without charge, plus Obama's announcements in his first days in office, we are winning significant battles in this campaign.
Kate reminds us that the last year has seen AIUK lead the way in the use of celebrities and popular media to reach new and younger audiences with our campaign messages. From the Amnesty Arts Fund to the Secret Policeman's Ball to the 'We Are All Born Free' illustrated children's book (now available in 32 countries, according to Kate), AI has pioneered work in this area. As a result, AIUK and AI USA will be taking a lead in forging plans for the high-profile celebrations which will mark Amnesty's fiftieth anniversary in 2011.
Kate pays tribute to the efforts of Amnesty members, volunteers and activists across the country, many of whom helped to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights during the last year. Amazing photographs, from Amnesty sections around the world, fill the screen.
Looking ahead to the next twelve months, the director reminds us that Amnesty should not expect to be wholly immune from the global economic recession. AIUK is, though, in better shape than most. 90% of our income comes in relatively small contributions from a large number of supporters – our 267,000 members and many other donors.
Kate notes that, campaign-wise, our focus is turning to Demand Dignity, AI's next big global campaign which will focus on poverty and human rights. A massive banner dominates the left side of the stage. Block headlined DIGNITY, it shows a bulldozer crashing through the world's slums in the shadow of skyscrapers. Forced evictions, maternal mortality and corporate accountability will all feature prominently in this soon-to-be-launched campaign.
Recent revelations about the case of Binyam Mohammed have strenghtened AI's hand in demanding accountability for State complicity by the UK (and others) in breaches of interantional law in the ongoing 'war on terror'. It is fitting, therefore, that one of the biggest rounds of applause of the day so far greets Kate's call for a full, independent inquiry into the UK's involvement in extraordinary rendition, torture and unlawful detention.
A well-delivered and well-received speech from Kate, who sits down to further, resounding acclamation.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.