G8 must put rights at heart of decisions

Speech delivered by Amnesty's Patrick Corrigan on Saturday from the platform in front of Belfast City Hall as part of the March for a Fairer World, marking the G8 summit, to be held in Northern Ireland this week:

"We are here today in Belfast to stand for a fairer world.

They are G8, but we are 7 billion. The people of the world have the right to a voice when it comes to the big decisions affecting them and future generations.

We have the right to have our voices heard, not to be shut out behind a ring of steel, nor drowned out amidst the noise of helicopter blades.

This is our message - we want a world without war, without repression, without environmental degradation. We want a world without poverty, without hunger, without the inequality which divides us.

The G8 leaders say they want free trade. We say we want fair trade and free speech.

The G8 leaders say they want globalisation of business. We say we want to globalise peace and globalise justice.

They say they want to tinker with the tax havens. We say we want a world where no longer will 800 million people go to bed hungry every night and where every 5 seconds a child dies from extreme poverty.

Decisions in Co Fermanagh over the next few days will have real world consequences for the worst-off people in the world. A global deal on human rights must begin with those sitting at the top table. To have any credibility, they must first put their own house in order.

With his global secret surveillance systems, we now know that President Obama is watching the world. Well let me let you into a secret, President Obama. The world is watching you.

President Obama. We love your rhetoric, we love your speeches. Nobody does it better. But, it is by your actions that you will be judged, not your words. The world is watching. And some of what we see, we do not like.

We do not like it when we see the deaths of innocent men, women and children as hellfire missiles rain down on them from your remote control drones - dismissed as collateral damage in an undeclared war.

We do not like it when we see over 150 men still locked up in Guantanamo Bay prison camp, without charge, without trial and without any prospect of being reunited with their families despite the fact we know, and you know, that most of them have done nothing wrong.

We do not like the fact that you continue to wage the discredited war on terror of your predecessor.

Every time you approve of a breach in international law, you make the world a more lawless place, and that makes the world a more dangerous place for us all.

President Obama, Guantanamo is an embarrassment to you and your country and an affront to justice. President Obama - we love your rhetoric about closing Guantanamo, but your inaction to make your promises a reality shames your Administration. President Obama: close Guantanamo.

President Putin. We are know you are a real tough guy. We see enough posed photographs to prove that point beyond any doubt. But President Putin - from your actions you appear to be a fearful man.

With your clampdown on civil society and jailing of critical voices over the last year, you show you are afraid of free speech and freedom to protest.

You are afraid of independent journalists and dissenting voices. You are afraid of independent NGOs, you are afraid of opposition activists, of gay pride marches. You're even afraid of punk bands. President Putin, you have created a climate of fear in Russia.

Well let me tell you something about Belfast, President Putin. Some of us may not look it, but at heart - this is a punk city, with a punk spirit - so take this message back to the Kremlin from the streets of Belfast:- free Pussy Riot, free civil society, free speech.

On Syria, we say to the G8 leaders, you are failing again. This time last year, there were 10,000 dead in Syria. Today, there are 100,000 dead.

And what is the solution of some of the G8 leaders to this human rights crisis, this bloodshed on an industrial scale? They want to send more weapons.

They want to send more weapons to those who have already committed terrible human rights abuses against their own people. They think that the children of Syria are crying out for more of their guns and missiles. They are not.

The children of Syria want the same as the children of Northern Ireland. The children of Syria are crying out for peace.

To be a truly great global leader, you have to prove your ability to lead change, to make the world a more peaceful, more just place.

By their actions at home and abroad, too many of the world's leaders are failing the test.

But we know that change is possible when we commit ourselves to justice. We know that change is possible, when we work together locally and globally. We know that it is in our hands to build a fairer world.

Thank you."

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2 comments

Good speech.
But at the Waterfront today, I think you were sitting directly behind Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness. Did you get a chance to put these concerns to President Obama?

FitzjamesHorse 5 years ago

FJH, thank you for compliments on the speech. I meant every word and repeated its messages to anyone and everyone I met at the Waterfront speech event. That didn't include President Obama (whom I didn't get near!) but did include many local figures, including the Chief Constable, the Secretary of State and the Minister for Justice - to all of whom I addressed Amnesty's questions regarding the scale and public messaging around the police operation directed at protests such as the march and rally on Saturday at which this speech was given. None of them agreed with me - I didn't expect they would - but I made sure I seized the opportunity to directly raise our concerns anyway.
My job is to speak out, lobby, influence, encourage, protest and communicate Amnesty's human rights messages when and where we can most make a difference. In the last week those opportunities have ranged from rallies outside Belfast City Hall to an invitation-only speech in the Waterfront Hall, to demonstrating outside the gates of the G8 summit in Fermanagh, as well as a public meeting of eight people in Antrim and a film screening about the G8 in Genoa to an audience of 12. Right now it's hard to say which of those events will bear the most fruit, but my money is on the public meeting in Antrim, which marked the start of a new Amnesty branch in the area.

Patrick CorriganStaff 5 years ago