My first Amnesty AGM, and AIUK will be doin' it for the kids.
I am most thankful that I can start writing away on this brand new blog about something so positive! 'Tis the huge success for children's rights at the Amnesty Conference and AGM in Swansea this weekend just gone.
The resolution proposed by David Maidment and seconded by myself, passed with overwhelming support – and so it is that Amnesty UK will take forward to the ICM (big international AI meeting thingy, in Istanbul this year) a concern about human rights abuses against children, and focus on children in priorities agreed internationally. Go team CHRN! We are at least 7,500 strong, and send thousands of letters and emails a year on behalf of children whose rights are violated. Thousands! :)
As David will testify, having worked on children's rights most of his life, Amnesty's involvement in children's rights specifically has dwindled in the past two decades. Strange, considering Amnesty itself helped to draft the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is 20 years old this year. I'm sure the members of our network will feel that their ongoing intrest in the network and its cases and our push for child-focused campaigning at the UK section has paid off.
Now on a more personal level: if you have never been to an Amnesty UK AGM, I urge you to pop that weekend-long Amnesty-bonanza cherry as soon as humanly possible (which would be, er, next year, when you get the forms in the post – January I think it is). Just do it. Sign up, send in the forms, pack your bag, and prepare for what I now dub the AI-supporting human rights defender's de facto 'Weekend of a Lifetime'.
I concluded this as I was sitting on the train from Swansea on Sunday, barely awake and decision-fatigued from debates and workshops, bags bulging with letters, leaflets and free DVDs, and a lovely grey hoodie brandishing the Amnesty candle, which I can see now will be a festival staple.
There's no doubt that reading and writing and campaiging on horrific human rights abuses can be sad work (and sometimes lonely, if like me you're a web-based campaigner and can't often get to group meetings), but this weekend was the fun and informative antidote to all that.
I believe I looked wistfully out the window and mused: "We will never be happy that we have to work so hard to stop such atrocities, but we can be glad that we have such good company doing it."
(Actually, that may be stretching the truth a bit – I was more likely slumped against the carriage window, delayed at Newport, knackered and crabby, thinking, "Why is this train not moving and what exactly is a signal failure?". But you get my meaning.)
So if you sometimes feel impotent against world injustice, and feel like no matter how many letters you write to your MP about anything, nothing will ever change – then get thee to an AGM! Kate Allen's reflections on the conference a decade ago were enough to swell the resolve even the most stubborn or apathetic .
What Amnesty UK members and campaigners do – it works. And every year there's a chance to get together and have a beer with them.
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