Thursday, March 15, 2012

People in Glass Houses

This year in my quest to do it all, I was on the hunt for volunteer or internship work at an NGO. Not only am I really quite obsessed with human rights and equality, but I also study International Relations and Social Policy, so this kind of work would certainly complement my studies.

In my search I came across a position to do communications on a locally run campaign by the international development organisation, Oxfam. The position was to work on 'Close the Gap', an initiative which aims to close the life expectancy gap, of almost 20 years, between Indigenous Australians and the wider community in one generation. It also aims to close the gap in mortality rates of Indigenous children under five years old, who die at more than twice the rate of other Australian babies.

These are staggering figures when we consider that we live in a democratic, first world nation with health and welfare benefits. One would expect these figures in a developing country but in Australia... surely not?

I have always been a huge advocate of international aid and development and fully thrown my support behind refugee rights, women's empowerment and grassroots development of the earth's poorest nations. Admittedly, I never looked in my own backyard. If I had, I would have seen the violation of numerous human rights, from land ownership to health.

I had always naively assumed that in a country full of people so quick to judge and condemn other countries on questionable actions toward their citizens that we should be pretty free from human rights violations ourselves.

How wrong I had been.

I now look around the world at all the first world countries who pride themselves on having achieved a 'civilised' democratic state and see the ways in which they deny or ignore Articles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Also on how they condemn other nations on the very rights they also violate. 

What is an example, you ask?

I will state the most hypocritical and most obvious due to the countries position in the international arena. In Article 3 of the Declaration it states "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person," I do believe this loosely translate as DON'T KILL PEOPLE! Now let's think who breaks this... oh yeah the United States. I should clarify here I'm talking about the death penalty still legal in many states, not the humanitarian/military intervention in the Middle East, although that arguably breaks a whole other set of international laws.

That is just one example, although there are hundreds, indeed reading through the first ten articles one can immediately jump to numerous examples of how many times the US has violated these rights since 9/11 in 2001 using 'freedom' as their motive.

 However, that is a whole other blog post.

So I did get the gig at Oxfam and have now been working on the campaign for a few weeks. In these few weeks I have really understood the power of beginning any kind of aid work in our own backyard. It provides context and nuance in understanding that people of any minority, in any country are quite possibly struggling an uphill battle of equal rights to basic living provisions.

It is important to recognise that because we believe ourselves to be in a better situation than many other nations around the world, this may not be the case for all of our citizens.

To find out more about Close the Gap click on the image link below -

Sign the pledge to show the Australian government that health equality still needs to be on the forefront of the national adgenda if we are to really call ourselves a civilised nation.

While you were sleeping...

I just saw this video and thought it was pretty spectacular.

Watch for the two books with black and white covers dancing together. It's the sweetest thing.

'The Joy of Books'

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Kony2012: No Matter Which Side - We Can Agree On This

Since the Kony 2012 campaign last week the world has been in an uproar. Everyone has sat firmly on one of two sides; either promoting or condemning the video that was released and the charity behind it, 'Invisible Children'.

Quite literally hundreds of thousands of blog posts, news articles, radio and television shows, not to mention dinner conversations, have centred around Kony 2012, Uganda and the LRA. In multiple cases discussions were heated and intense. Innocent people unknowingly walked into a minefield by simply muttering the statement, "So what do you think about Kony2012?"

So here I will state the obvious - The campaign worked.

This campaign whether ill-informed, simplistic, or idealistic and with an apparently questionable fund dispersion system, reached tens of millions of people within days. Out of every campaign ever created this has without doubt been the most successful in the short term, particularly through the platform of social media.

Whether you agree or disagree on the issue at hand you cannot dispute the extreme reach of this remarkable social media marketing strategy. It will be interesting to see the effects this campaign has on marketing and social media campaigning from here on out.

So what's my opinion on Kony 2012? Well.... you walked right into that one didn't you!

While I do not necessarily condone the 'fundraising' aspect of the campaign as I don't much care for financial aid for military (especially of groups like the Ugandan Army who are constant violators of human rights) I do see a positive side to the campaign in its success of raising awareness.

I can see all of you nay-sayers raring up at that one with comments like "What, you mean people blindly following the new big fad?" and "They will forget about it in a week, how is that awareness!"

While I agree that both of these are valid arguments and have proven to be partly true over the last week, with people backtracking on opinions and already moving onto the next big thing, I still believe the awareness the campaign created will be beneficial.

In an online (of course) debate I had with a friend of mine, my reasoning for this was that for every 10 million people who blindly followed the campaign, there were perhaps 1000 who did further and extended research on Kony and the LRA. Maybe of these thousand, 100 people then researched the best method for getting involved in a grassroots movement to either minimise or prevent further events like this from happening. And maybe 20 of these people will continue in an effort to learn, raise awareness or help implement more appropriate prevention strategies in their lifetime.

As I write this there has been over 70 million hits on the video - if I work with my numbers above that is 140 people (I hope, I'm terrible at maths) who could possibly work towards beneficial solutions to prevent violations of human rights.

Isn't that an achievement? I think it is. It is also why I maintain my position that the Kony2012 campaign is a positive thing.

But here is the thing, don't just take my word for it. Be one of the 1000 who research further. Here are two great articles I have found, one from each side of the fence.

Some articles disagreeing with the campaign can be seen at:

'Unmuted - You Don't Have My Vote'

- 'Visible Children - We Got Trouble'

Some articles agreeing that the campaign has positives can be seen at:

-  'At Water's Edge - Can the United Nations Harness Kony2012's Energy?'

- 'Congo Siasa - From Campaigning to Action on Joseph Kony and the LRA'

Also to watch continued debates from both sides Al Jazeera has a spotlight on Kony - 'Al Jazeera - Spotlight: Kony'

I willingly admit that my opinion, is just that. This issue is vastly more complex than watching a 30 minute video. It would take years to understand, to any extent, the gravity of Uganda's political and  social history and why things are the way they are. Yet, as I referenced earlier, it could be a start for some people.
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