Tag Archives: advocacy

The Maldives on the map and finding a fan in Cameron.

Back in June, I was lucky enough to witness some of the goings on at the 17th meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, including an emergency session on the situation in Libya.  While unanimously condemned by the delegates, there was an absence of true revulsion at the situation until the Maldives took the floor. The delegate of this tiny group of islands (population 350,000) released such a passionate and hard-hitting condemnation of Libya it really took me by surprise and made the room squirm. Taking to Twitter (with something along the lines of ‘Go Maldives!” ) led to an RT by @ILoveMaldives, whose little blurb reads “1% Land & 99% Water- In the Maldives We Teach YOu The Art Of DOing Nothing- Please NO News And No Shoes here! :)” [sic]

From this, the Maldives sounded feisty, fun and I wanted to know more.   My interest was piqued in a bizarre interview with David Cameron in The Guardian recently when, and bear with me here,  street artist Eine hypothetically asked which 5 world leaders Dave would invite on hypothetical stag do, obviously organised by Berlusconi. Part of Dave’s answer was, “My new best friend is the President of the Maldives. He’s great.” What’s going on? Is this a bit like Gordon Brown attempting to boost his popularity by claiming a love for the Arctic Monkeys? Are the Maldives the new Arctic Monkeys?

The BFF in question, President Mohamed Nasheed, has been quietly creeping onto the world stage since election in 2008, taking office from a President who by all accounts ruled with an iron fist from 1978. President Nasheed’s activist roots at first makes you wonder what on earth he and Dave have in common…

Returning to the Maldives in 1989 after a British public school education and graduating with a degree in maritime law from Liverpool, Mohamed Nasheed (nicknamed Anni) was imprisoned and tortured by government forces for speaking out against the regime and accused of spreading Christianity. Nasheed was declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International in 1991 and eventually fled the Maldives in 2004 to be granted refugee status in Britain. Following another few years of return, arrest, imprisonment, becoming an MP, losing his seat, regaining his seat, Nasheed was eventually elected President in the first major democratic vote in the Maldives for decades.

Enemies continued to accuse him of spreading Christianity in a muslim country. A BBC article in 2008 claims Nasheed “enjoyed close links to foreign organisations such as Britain’s Conservative Party which undermined the country’s faith. He has strenuously denied the allegations.” The article is unclear whether the strenuous denial applies to spreading Christianity or to having links with the Conservative party. However, it seems the Conservatives had quite a lot to do with Nasheed’s presidential campaign including campaigning advice and even funding.

Cynicism aside, President Nasheed seems to be doing an alright job: the United Nation’s universal periodic review of the Maldives in 2010 uncovers the problems you would expect from a country under transition from dictatorship to democracy, including the population getting to grips with the concept and entitlement of human rights.

Environmental credentials are impressive; as the Maldives is seriously threatened by climate change due to rising sea levels, the aim is for the entire country to be carbon neutral within ten years. Nasheed was named Time Magazine Hero of the Environment in 2009 and one of the UN Champions of the Earth in 2010. Also in 2010,  Newsweek  placed Nasheed at Number 2 in their top ten of the world’s best leaders. And Number 1? David Cameron. I get the feeling this isn’t the last we’ve heard of this ‘special relationship’.

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Thank you VW much!

Is it wrong to indulge in a little self promotion? For a good cause? I’ll keep it short…

Greenpeace recently launched a campaign to highlight Volkswagen’s continued opposition to cuts in CO2 emissions. Called VW Darkside, the campaign parodies the VW adverts featuring a mini Darth Vadar trying and failing to use the force on various household objects. Gorgeous Dad helps him out by remotely turning the headlights on the family car in the driveway: cue astonishment and all round cuteness.

Greenpeace’s subvert trumps this by sheer numbers, a whole team of tiny Jedis sent to combat the Dark Side, complete with a VW badge on the Death Star. The evil VW threatening our planet cannot succeed! Greenpeace have highlighted the fact that even though VW may position themselves as the leader on more environmentally friendly vehicles, they in fact have a huge lobbying power who have been hard at work in the EU to prevent a vote for an increase in the overall cut to Co2 emissions- from 20% to 30% by 2020. Not only that, but only 6% of the cars sold in 2010 were the more efficient models, VW having effectively priced consumers out of this market.

With this in mind, Greenpeace launched a film competition to make a 1 minute ‘subvert’ of a VW advert. The films go to a public vote, the 12 films with the most votes make the shortlist, Greenpeace choose the winner who gets a £5k budget to make Greenpeace’s next campaign film. There are 80 entries and some of the films are really stunning.

I have, ahem, also entered and would love it if you take a look and vote by clicking here. My entry subverts the recent VW Cabriolet advert which plays on the use of Super 8 footage and memory, showing kids messing about in go carts and toy cars, using the song ‘Days’ by The Kinks. I’ve employed the same tactics (hope you don’t mind me using your song, Ray, it’s all for a good cause!) to show the environmental consequences of our inaction. I filmed the whole thing on an IPhone 3G, using the 8mm Vintage Camera app from Nexvio. It cost me around about nothing to make.

You can vote for more than one so do have a look at the others. Read Greenpeace’s report about VW here too.

Thank you, may the force be with you.

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Witness unveil the Video Advocacy Planning Toolkit.

Last summer I completed an internship with the not-for-profit organisation Witness, based in Brooklyn, to develop the Video Advocacy Planning Toolkit, which went live last week. The toolkit incorporates Witness’ decades of experience training rights advocates worldwide to use video in bringing about positive change. By shifting this training online Witness can reach many more activists, as demand for training far outstripped capacity. Under the watchful eye (and moustache) of the marvellous Chris Michael, I was involved in the initial stages of development and drafting the text; the task was to find a workable solution to an ambitious and complex technical need. Read Chris’ introduction on the Witness blog for the science bit.

Witness was set up by Peter Gabriel (of Genesis and ‘Sledgehammer’ fame) in 1992 after he videoed personal stories of those he met while touring with Amnesty International’s Human Rights Now! tour in 1988.  The police beating of Rodney King in 1991, captured on a handycam by a member of the public and beamed around the world, cemented the role of video as a valuable tool in defending human rights and exposing perpetrators; Witness was born.

Making and distributing a video has become technically easier over the years; anyone can pick up a video camera or mobile phone, press record and upload it to YouTube. However, the skill in effectively delivering an advocacy message in that video requires thought, patience, more time (and probably money) than you would initially imagine and asking tough questions of yourself and your organisation.

The Video Advocacy Planning Toolkit is not a ‘how-to’ guide to film making, although there are links to resources advising on getting the best out of your video visually, but taking on board Witness’ expertise on strategy, security and distribution are a must before picking up a camera. Is making a video the right medium? Who is the target/primary audience for your video and how will they see it? Does your primary audience have the power to influence change? How will you protect the safety and security of your crew and contributors? The toolkit asks searching questions which in the end will give your video more impact.

The toolkit is split into 12 chapters to take you from the initial planning stages to distribution. There are instructional videos, links to further resources and case studies from other advocates who share their experiences in making a video for advocacy.

You can save and return to the toolkit at any time and your plan can be downloaded to share with others. It may look like a lot of work to start with, but completing this plan will save you time and money in the long run and ensure all those working on the video are working to the same message and strategy.

The toolkit was released at the end of September and Witness will need your feedback in order to make improvements and ensure users are gaining a valuable resource.  Witness will be giving away flip cams to the first toolkit users and providers of in depth feedback, so have a go and report back to them. Good luck and well done Witness!

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