ACD - Agency for Cultural Diplomacy
ACD - Agency for Cultural Diplomacy

Human Rights 2030 ...

Soft Power Activism

 

HR75: engaging with dance arts virtual session

 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217 A) as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected and it has been translated into over 500 languages.

 

Dignity as an Ethically Determined Term
Dignity, as an ethically determined term, is grounded in the belief that every person possesses an inherent worth that must be recognized and respected. This ethical determination guides actions, laws, and policies to uphold the principles of fairness, justice, and respect for all individuals. In the context of both human and environmental dignity, this ethical perspective demands that we create societies where every person can thrive in harmony with a sustainable and healthy environment.
By integrating the concepts of human dignity and environmental dignity, we promote a holistic approach to ethics that values both human rights and the natural world. This integrated perspective encourages responsible consumption, sustainable practices, and active efforts to combat environmental degradation, ensuring that dignity is preserved for all people and the planet we share
.

 

Human Dignity
Human dignity is a fundamental concept that underpins the idea of human rights. 
It refers to the inherent worth of every individual, regardless of their status, race, gender, or any other characteristic. This intrinsic value demands respect and recognition from others and forms the basis of ethical principles in societies worldwide. Ethically, human dignity is considered non-negotiable and forms the cornerstone of international human rights laws and declarations, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which asserts that "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."

 

The concept of human dignity emphasizes that every person deserves to live with respect, free from discrimination, and with the ability to pursue their personal and communal well-being. This includes access to basic needs like food, shelter, education, and healthcare, as well as the freedom to express oneself, participate in community life, and seek justice and protection under the law.

 

Environmental Dignity
Environmental dignity extends the concept of human dignity to include the right to a healthy and sustainable environment. It acknowledges that a clean, safe, and healthy environment is essential for the full enjoyment of human rights. Environmental dignity recognizes that environmental degradation, pollution, and climate change disproportionately affect marginalized communities, threatening their health, livelihoods, and overall quality of life.
Ethically, environmental dignity implies that protecting the environment is not just about conserving nature for its own sake but is intrinsically linked to the dignity and rights of current and future generations. It calls for sustainable practices and policies that prevent harm to the environment and ensure that all people can live in a world where their health and well-being are protected.

 

 

How do arts relate to human rights?

Artistic expression is often used to convey important messages and advocate for human rights.

 

Watch the 1-minute trailer on YouTube, the announcement of the Human Rights Arts & Film Festival (HRAFF) which for six days of film and art programming spotlighting stories from Iran, Brazil, Ireland, Lebanon, Venezuela, South Sudan, Mexico, US, Canada…  “These stories connect us to our present moment, to place, culture, home, nature and ourselves.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tdYuUt3aoM
2. Earth song by Michael Jackson:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAi3VTSdTxU
Sacheen Littlefeather refuses to accept the Best Actor Oscar® on behalf of Marlon Brando for his performance in "The Godfather" at the 45th annual Academy Awards® in 1973.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QUacU0I4yU 

 

Table of Silence
An annual ritual for peace: free dance and music performance honoring the lives lost 20 years ago on 9/11/01 while reflecting on the current crises of today. Buglisi Dance Theatre, Lincoln Center& Dance/NYC
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JDf6fJqtcc

Read about the virtual conference organized by ACD-Agency for Cultural Diplomacy Vienna on the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of the Universal Human Rights Declaration with professionals from Dance arts: https://www.acdvienna.org/sdgs/hr75-dance-arts-in-4-human-rights-un-sdgs/ 


Civilian actors for HR

Organizing and attending international conferences and meetings connected with globally relevant events supports the development of international partnerships and shares evidence from art practices for Human Rights in education and beyond. Civilian actors from arts and culture are actively engaging in sustainable development with impactful initiatives and inspiring collaborative projects across all borders. From freedom of expression to cultural diversity, dance serves as a compelling medium to articulate, challenge, and celebrate the essence of human rights. In the next part, more examples from the past to nowadays are provided about how art professionals engage in activism and are supported as Human Rights Defenders and Environmental activists. 

 

Human Rights Activism,

Human Rights Activism in Arts

What is Human Rights Activism and how it matters in Arts?

Documents haven’t put an end to human rights violations, however. Injustices still flourish and activist movements around the world still call for governments, companies, 
and individuals to be held accountable. 

 

Brief Introduction to Human Rights Activism 
In the realm of global citizenship and social justice, Human Rights Activism stands as a beacon of hope and progress. Rooted in international agreements and declarations such as the UN Human Rights Defenders Declaration, which was adopted by consensus by the General Assembly in 1998, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 
after 14 years of negotiations, 
human rights activism seeks to uphold the fundamental freedoms and dignity of all individuals worldwide. These rights, enshrined in documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are not merely legal constructs but moral imperatives that demand collective action and vigilance. 
In the Report Protecting human rights defenders at risk: EU entry, stay and support from 2023,
the EU outlines how human rights defenders can enter and stay in the EU when they need protection. It suggests how EU institutions and Member States could use the flexibility in existing legal provisions and provide shelter for defenders who seek protection.

 

Who are the Human Rights Defenders and Activists?


According to the United Nations, ´Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) are people who act peacefully to promote or protect human rights in accordance with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. They are notable in areas such as issuing press releases, studies of possible violations or abuses of human rights, and reports, and they address any human rights concerns, which can be as varied as, for example, summary executions, torture, arbitrary arrest, and detention, female genital mutilation, discrimination, employment issues, forced evictions, access to health care, and toxic waste and its impact on the environment. Defenders are active in support of human rights as diverse as the rights to life, to food and water, to the highest attainable standard of health, to adequate housing, to a name and a nationality, to education, to freedom of movement, and to non-discrimination. They sometimes address the rights of categories of persons, for example, women’s rights, children’s rights, the rights of indigenous persons, the rights of refugees and internally displaced persons, the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersexual people, the rights of persons with disabilities and the rights of national of linguistic. 
Most defenders in all regions of the world have been the target of executions, torture, harassment, and restrictions on their freedoms of movement, expression, association, and assembly.

 

In their role of protecting and defending human rights, it was identified through a study that Human Rights Defenders connected to agribusiness, mining, and renewable energy sectors as those in greatest danger. Lawyers and members of environmental groups were also at risk.  
In essence, while both activists and defenders share the goal of advancing human rights, the term "defender" is often used in formal contexts to emphasize a commitment to peaceful advocacy and adherence to legal standards. It underscores the protective role these individuals play in safeguarding human rights, often in challenging and sometimes dangerous environments where their actions may face repression or opposition. The United Nations and other human rights organizations use "defenders" to acknowledge and support these individuals' critical contributions to promoting and protecting human rights globally.

 

Soft Power Activism: Human Rights in Arts
Today, the landscape of activism is evolving. Alongside traditional methods, a new paradigm termed "soft power activism"  is emerging. Coined to describe the influence wielded through cultural exchange, education, and conviction through dialogue and evidence-based arguments rather than force, soft power activism leverages societal values to effect change. It embodies the belief that artistic expressions can ignite movements transcending all borders and transform them into bridges. The German term “Sanftmut”  (”meek” in English) could serve as suitable for understanding the soft power and its form of influence. 
Overview of how art functions in this capacity, supplemented by historical and contemporary examples:

 

 Arts in & 4 Soft Power Activism
Art serves as a bridge between cultures, promoting mutual understanding and respect. 
Through cultural exchange programs, exhibitions, and performances, art can convey the values 
and ideals of a society, enhancing its global image and influence. By addressing controversial or taboo subjects, artists can stimulate public discourse and challenge the status quo, therefore, 
art has the power to reflect societal issues, criticize injustices, and raise awareness about political, social, and environmental concerns. It can foster a sense of identity, solidarity, and collective action among those who feel disenfranchised, mobilize communities and empower marginalized groups by providing a platform for their voices. Art can evoke deep emotional responses, making it a powerful tool for change, and inspiring activism.

Unlike traditional forms of activism that may rely on confrontation or coercion, Soft power activism engages hearts and minds, fostering empathy and understanding, while focusing on building sustainable relationships based on shared values and cultural affinity rather than domination or force. This approach is particularly effective in promoting long-term cooperation and collaboration among nations and communities.
 

Soft power activism plays a crucial role in promoting human rights by spreading awareness, advocating for inclusivity, and challenging discriminatory practices through cultural expressions and international dialogue. It highlights the universality of human rights and encourages mutual respect among diverse cultures. 

Listen/watch the YouTube video lesson about Cultural Diplomacy & Soft Power - 2009) by Joseph S. Nye (Distinguished Service Professor, Harvard University) for The International Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy Berlin 2009: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOsUilwRstQ
 

Engage in reflective analysis about soft power from your experience, do further research, and find examples from media and history. Think about your approach if acting as a Human Rights activist, what form of “power” would be most suitable for your engagement and personal interests and ability? Learn from examples and cases, for your engagement, to optimize the effects and to prevent undesired outcomes. 
Note: Images are powerful tools to attract and deliver messages, but imagine, being a blind person, how will you be attracted, by what senses?  
Deliberate your experience: include various media and forms of expression by experiencing soft power and its effects.

 

References for further reading:
European Parliament’s evolving Soft Power: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/thinktank/en/document/EPRS_BRI(2019)642212 
Nye-InformationRevolution.pdf: https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/11738398/Nye-InformationRevolution.pdf

 

 

    Examples, Cases, Figures: HMD in action, Foundations for Human Rights

 

Nelson Mandela “It always seems impossible until it's done.”

One of the most influential human rights defenders in history is Nelson Mandela (1918-2013).

He is renowned for his unwavering advocacy against apartheid in South Africa. Mandela endured 27 years of imprisonment for his activism before becoming the nation's first democratically elected president in 1994. His relentless commitment to equality and justice made him a worldwide symbol of resistance against oppression and a shining example of reconciliation and human rights.

Mandela's leadership and bravery remain a powerful inspiration for movements across the globe.

Mandela Foundation focuses its work on contributing to the making of just societies by mobilising the legacy of Nelson Mandela, providing public access to information on his life and times, and convening dialogue on critical social issues. The key objective is finding sustainable solutions to the problems confronting humanity: https://www.nelsonmandela.org/about-the-centre-of-memory

 

Malala Yousafzai

“There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen.“

 

One prominent example of the young Human Rights Defender is given by Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani human rights activist known for her advocacy of girls' education in her native Swat Valley, where the Taliban had banned girls from attending school. In 2012, Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman while on a school bus. Her survival and subsequent global activism brought international attention to the plight of children's education in Pakistan and beyond.

This case relates directly to the topic of human rights activism as it demonstrates the courage and determination of individuals to fight for fundamental rights, such as education, in the face of significant adversity. Malala's story underscores the importance of advocating for human rights, especially for marginalized groups like girls facing educational barriers. She advocates for girl's education supported by the Malala Fund: https://malala.org/   

Watch/listen to the Speech of Malala Yousafzai at the Transforming Education Summit | United Nations

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxfV3dOTjlk

For further reading, you can refer to Malala Yousafzai's autobiography "I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban" (2013), which details her experiences and advocacy journey.

 

Greta Thunberg “My message is that we will be watching you”

A prominent Human Rights Activist from Europe is Greta Thunberg, a Swedish environmental activist who gained international recognition for her school strike for the climate movement. She started striking outside the Swedish parliament in August 2018, demanding stronger action on climate change from government leaders. Since then, Greta has become a leading voice for climate action, inspiring millions of young people worldwide to join the Fridays for Future movement. It involves school students who engage in regular strikes on Fridays to demand stronger action on climate change from their governments. The movement has grown globally, with students organizing protests, marches, and other forms of activism to raise awareness about the climate crisis and advocate for policies to mitigate its effects. Greta Thunberg's activism has spurred a global movement, influencing policies and raising awareness about the urgency of addressing climate change. Her advocacy has made her a significant figure in the fight against the climate crisis, particularly among youth activists in Europe and beyond. She has spoken at numerous global forums, including the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP), urging world leaders to take urgent action on climate change.

 

Watch/listen to Greta Thunberg´s speech on YouTube: 
Greta Thunberg's full speech to world leaders at the UN Climate Action Summit
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2QxFM9y0tY 

 

Another youth-led initiative focused on climate activism is “The Last Generation" movement. Originating primarily in Europe, it emphasizes the idea that the current generation could be the last to effectively combat climate change before irreversible consequences occur. This movement aims to mobilize young people to pressure governments and corporations to take immediate and substantial action to reduce carbon emissions and protect the environment for future generations. 


One example of such activism occurred during the Extinction Rebellion protests in London in 2019, where activists glued themselves to the streets to block traffic and draw attention to climate change issues. This tactic aims to disrupt normal activities while drawing media attention to the urgency of climate action. These actions often involve risk and are intended to provoke discussion and policy change regarding environmental concerns. Climate activists from The Last Generation group glued themselves to roads and disrupted rush hour traffic in Vienna, Austria 


In the Leopold Museum in Vienna, activists from the “Last Generation Austria” poured oil on a painting by Gustav Klimt. After similar attacks against Van Gogh, Monet, and others, preparations were made against such an attack. 
Watch the Ö1 0.46´video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cN2X0Ledx_U

 

Note: Climate activists have been instrumental in mobilizing youth movements, raising awareness about climate change impacts, and pressuring governments and corporations to take meaningful action to address the climate crisis. They use platforms like social media, public speaking engagements, and direct activism to amplify their voices.

 

Engage: Look for examples of Human Rights activism from your country and for cases published in your national and international media. Take an example that you find most relevant or interesting, and analyze what happened, what Human Right was violated, by whom, where, why, and how HRD acted. Was it a successful action? What would you do, how would you engage? Exchange your opinion with your colleagues, engage in some activity by your interests, and find a suitable form for your action. Note that such actions are risky and look for support by relevant organizations such as Amnesty International, before acting. WATCH and report your observations first to your local Human Rights Defender organizations. on official platforms and connect with international organizations such as Human Rights Watch.

 

 Art Activists from the past to nowadays … 

Josephine Baker "To realize our dreams we must decide to wake up."

Josephine Baker (1906-1975), was an American-born French entertainer, dancer, singer, and actress. 
Her career was centered primarily in Europe, mostly in France.
She used her fame to fight against racial discrimination and support the Civil Rights Movement. During World War II, she worked with the French Resistance, using her performances as a cover for espionage. After the war, she was awarded the Resistance Medal by the French Committee of National Liberation, the Croix de Guerre by the French Military, and was named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour by General Charles de Gaulle. Paris Post-war, she became a prominent civil rights activist, speaking at the March on Washington in 1963 and using her international platform to advocate for racial equality and justice. Josephine Baker died in Paris in April 1975. On November 30, 2021, she was inducted into the Pantheon in Paris, the first black woman to receive one of the highest honors in France.  
Case: J. Baker in Vienna: 
In February 1928, Josephine Baker was supposed to appear at the Ronacher Theater in Vienna, which caused outrage in various circles. It was discussed publicly and even in parliament whether their appearance should be banned. The daily newspapers spoke of the "N...scandal", representatives of the Catholic Church organized special services to atone for Baker's "serious violations of morals", the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP) in Vienna protested against her "obscene" appearances and called for a ban on her appearances. As a result of public pressure, Ronacher did not receive permission for the show. While management and organizers looked for a solution, Josephine Baker went to Semmering to relax. The compromise was that Baker appeared in the revue “Schwarz auf Weiß” (Black on White in English) instead of in a solo show for six weeks from March 1st at the Johann Strauss Theater (Favoritenstrasse 8, demolished in 1959/60). Baker experienced racism not only in Vienna, where she returned twice: in 1932 and in 1958. for a celebrated guest performance at the Ronacher Theatre. One of the ways she protested against racism was by adopting 12 children of different origins and religions. 

 

Engage: Contextualize and Compare:

Compare Josephine Baker's activism and the challenges she faced in Vienna with those faced by other art activists of her time. 
How did her methods of using art and public performance to protest against racial discrimination set a precedent for future art activists?

Watch: Josephine Baker: The Story of an Awakening by DW History of Culture on YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nHUh_yjLaA

 

Reflect and Present: Reflect on Josephine Baker's decision to adopt 12 children of different origins and religions as a protest against racism. In your presentation, discuss the impact of this personal act of activism on public perception and its relevance to modern discussions on diversity and inclusion. How can contemporary activists draw inspiration from Baker's multifaceted approach to advocacy?

 

Friedensreich Hundertwasser

“ PEACE TREATY WITH NATURE: The right and duty of mankind to finish all disputes between men and to conclude a treaty with nature, the only superior power the human race depends on for its survival.“ 

Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000), was an Austrian environmental activist, artist, and architect, known for his vibrant, organic designs and his strong advocacy for environmental sustainability. He used his art to promote ecological awareness and challenge the functionalism of modern architecture. He spread his ecological and socio-critical positions with numerous manifestos, letters, speeches, and public demonstrations, and designed original posters in support of the protection of nature, against nuclear power, for the saving of the oceans and the whales, and for the protection of the rainforest, to name only a few examples, all aimed at preserving nature and activating people's awareness of environmental protection. In “Homo Humus Humanitas”, a requirement for humanity is expressed in the preservation of natural cycles and the restoration of the earth’s topsoil layers. “Peace Treaty with Nature” concerns the pleas for a life in harmony with the laws of nature.


In 1983, Hundertwasser designed and donated the poster to the Norges Naturvernforbund (Norwegian Nature Conservancy Association) on the occasion of the campaign "Acid precipitation - effects on forests and fish" in cooperation with the Norwegian Ministry for the Environment. The aim was to draw the public's attention to the dangerous effects of acid rain on nature. For the poster, Hundertwasser received the "Ekoplagát 84" prize.  
In 1984, when the Hainburg riparian forests in Austria were in danger of being destroyed by the state-planned Danube power station, Hundertwasser was one of the most vehement opponents and played an important role in the „occupation of the water meadows“, which led eventually to the failure of the government plans.  Hundertwasser´s legacy is supported and promoted by the Hundertwasser non-profit private Foundation which sees its task as preserving the work, and concerns of the founder and disseminating them through exhibitions, publications, lectures, conferences, and campaigns and making efforts for a more humane, natural and humane world and for an art of to support heartily. Worldwide largest museum of Hundertwasser´s artworks which was founded by Hundertwasser is located in KunstHausWien: https://www.kunsthauswien.com/en/exhibitions/museum-hundertwasser/

Kia Ora  in Whangarei: Hundertwasser 4 Māori Culture in New Zealand
Next to his origin Austrian citizenship, Hundertwasser was a citizen of New Zealand, his second homeland, where he engaged in tree planting activities and in the protection of the cultural heritage of the indigenous people in New Zealand, the Maori. In 1993, Hundertwasser designed an art center for Whangārei, which was opened 22 Years after his death: in 2022 The Hundertwasser Art Centre with Wairau Māori Art Gallery. opened with the inaugural exhibition, Puhi Ariki. 
Wairau Māori Art Gallery is home to the finest examples of contemporary Māori art and is designed to promote and enhance Te Ao Māori. 
It is the first unique and dedicated public Māori Art Gallery in Aotearoa New Zealand. 
https://www.hundertwasserartcentre.co.nz/about/#wairau-maori-art-gallery

^ Beyond his environmental activist engagement, in 1959 Hundertwasser got involved in helping the Dalai Lama escape from Tibet by campaigning for the Tibetan religious leader in Carl Laszlo’s magazine Panderma. 

Breifmarkenparlament für Menschenrechte: Hundertwasser4United Nations 
In 1983 Hundertwasser was invited by the Secretary-General of the United Nations Javier Perez de Cuellar to create six postage stamps on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights in 1983, for the United Nations Postal Administrations of New York, 
Geneva and Vienna.
With these postage stamp designs and accompanying texts Hundertwasser formulated his interpretation of human rights: with “Right to Create”, “Right to Dream” and “The Second Skin” (human clothing is meant here), he postulated individual creativity as the right and the duty of each individual. With “Window Right”, he argues the case for the right of the individual to design his living area and, in doing so, targets living conditions fit for human beings. 


Source: Dr. Andrea Fürst, Hundertwasser, art souvenir

Hundertwasser4Europe: 


In 1985, on the occasion of the Day of Europe under the headline “European Culture: Fantasy and Freedom”. Hundertwasser’s poster was intended as a call to people’s creativity, to make up for the deficits in our times, and was donated to the Council of Europe. Simultaneously the Council was intent on appealing for tolerance towards people of other cultures.
https://hundertwasser.com/en/applied-art/835_a_apa201_european_council_-_democracy_-_human_rights_1823 
On the occasion of the European community culture event "Europalia 1987" dedicated to Austria. 
The image was not painted by Hundertwasser; it shows an interpretation of the Hundertwasserhouse by Auguste Wanda Böcskör (1929-2003). For the Europalia, Hundertwasser created a transformation design for the facade of the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, which was realized for the period of the Europalia from September 16 - December 16, 1987, and a poster for the promotion.
https://hundertwasser.com/en/applied-art/871_f_apa236_cept_europalia_1987_1853 

 

Opponent fellow case: “Austrian Car Licence Plates”: 
Hundertwasser was a critical fellow, so in some cases he operated as a prominent opponent of the European Union, advocating the preservation of regional peculiarities. A case is known as “Hundertwasser Numernschilder” Due to the decision of the Austrian National Council in 1988 to exchange the white on-black license plates introduced in Austria in 1947 for new license plates with black color on a white background, Friedensreich Hundertwasser became active. He decided to intervene in the discussion with his designs “Austrian Car Licence Plates”. Unfortunately, 
he was unable to gain acceptance with his
license plate designs, which also included slightly modified state coats of arms.  

 

Note: From this case, we can learn that being an opponent fellow means expressing critical opinion without compromising relations. It is a democratic right, to practice freedom of expression. 
According to the United Nations, democracy "provides an environment that respects human rights and fundamental freedoms, and in which the freely expressed will of people is exercised.”

 

The EU  supports democratization and fundamental freedoms in partner countries by encouraging broad participation in political decision-making and local ownership of sectors that are key to sustainable development. Particular emphasis in based on facilitating the involvement of women and youth in civic and political life. Be encouraged to share your opinion and provide responses and recommendations to the EU and to all decision-makers. There are always platforms for dialogue with civil society and citizens. Take the example by Hundertwasser, how he delivered evidence and argued with proposed solutions, even though his initiative was not successful. 

There are many more examples from Hundertwasser´s dedicated activism, for various matters, make further research on your interests and get inspired to engage with arts in environmental activism- Watch videos on YouTube: Occupation of the Hainburger Au: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgJ_QC0BoYI , 


Get inspired by Hundertwasser for your engagement in environmental protection, watch the Rainyday movie, a 1972 West German short documentary film about artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser rebuilding an old wooden ship called Regentag ^ Rainyday. Created and produced in close cooperation with Hundertwasser and narrated by him in German, English and French, the movie was awarded the German film prize 1972: Filmband in Gold, was nominated in 1972 for an Oscar in the category "Documentary Film" by the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences. 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZnq9074MbI&t=6s 

 

Bertha von Suttner
Bertha von Suttner (1893.1914), an Austrian novelist and the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, used her writing to advocate for peace and disarmament. Her influential novel “Die Waffen nieder” (German) in English: "Lay Down Your Arms" (1889) criticized the militarism and nationalism of her time, promoting the idea of peaceful conflict resolution. Von Suttner's literary work and activism were instrumental in the early international peace movement, shaping the discourse on war and peace. In her writings and advocacy, she emphasized the imperative of diplomacy and mutual understanding.
Get more details about Bertha von Suttner:  watch “ An Introduction to Bertha von Suttner's "Lay Down Your Arms !" (Die Waffen Nieder!") By Ethics Talk on YouTube: 1:39:41
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZySz8WUvFRU
and The Evolution of the Peace Movement Bertha von Suttner, Nobel Lecture
by Nobel Prize org. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BLKZGYhUsA 

 

Extend engagement: 
Get inspired by the courage, creativity, and unwavering commitment to justice by shared examples that serve as a testament to the transformative power of individual action and collective solidarity.

 

Reflect on the courage and creativity of past and present human rights activists who have driven change through their commitment to justice and solidarity. What matters for you the most? 
Find some cause that relates to your commitment, be it to protect violations against animals, pollution of water through plastic, or violation against Human Rights in any form, … 

 

Research and Compare: Explore historical documents and current media to understand human rights issues in your country. Compare progress made over time and identify ongoing challenges. Analyze findings to pinpoint persisting human rights issues and areas needing advocacy and improvement.

Engage and Advocate: Collaborate with local organizations and activists to advocate for human rights causes. Use your voice and resources to support initiatives for justice and equality.
Amplify Awareness: Use social media and community platforms to raise awareness about human rights issues. Share stories and mobilize others to join efforts for positive change, contribute to advancing human rights in your community and beyond.


Human Rights Activism in Social Media

Media is the most powerful transmitter of informations. Social media channels and platforms like 
Meta (former Twitter), Telegram, Instagram, and Facebook, among other platforms, have become powerful tools for amplifying voices, organizing protests, and mobilizing global solidarity. 
They facilitate the rapid dissemination of information, enabling activists to shine a light on injustice and catalyze swift responses.
However, alongside its positive impact, the misuse of social media in the context of human rights can have severe negative consequences, such as:

Spread of Misinformation and Hate Speech: 
Social media platforms can be manipulated to spread misinformation, incite violence, and propagate hate speech against vulnerable communities or individuals advocating for human rights. This can exacerbate existing tensions and contribute to social division and conflict.
Suppression of Dissent and Surveillance: 
Authoritarian regimes often use social media as a tool for surveillance, censorship, and the suppression of dissent. Human rights defenders and activists may face harassment, intimidation, or even imprisonment based on their online activities and expressions.
Online Harassment and Threats: 


Human rights activists, particularly women and minorities, are frequently targets of online harassment, threats, and doxxing campaigns. This can have a chilling effect on their advocacy efforts and personal safety, limiting their ability to freely express themselves and advocate for human rights.

Europe has implemented various regulations aimed at ensuring the responsible use of social and digital media platforms while safeguarding users' rights and privacy. These regulations cover a wide range of issues, including data protection, content moderation, online hate speech, and platform accountability.


In conclusion, while soft power activism through social media can be a powerful force for positive change and human rights promotion, it is crucial to address and mitigate its negative impacts, including the misuse of social media for human rights violations and suppression of dissent. 
Efforts to safeguard online spaces, promote digital literacy, and uphold international human rights standards are essential in harnessing the potential of soft power activism for a more just and inclusive global society.

Key References:
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) implemented in 2018: is a comprehensive data protection regulation that applies to all companies operating in the European Union (EU) and those handling data of EU citizens. It sets strict guidelines for the collection, processing, and storage of personal data, including user data collected by social media platforms.
Digital Services Act (DSA) and Digital Markets Act (DMA) in 2020 as part of its Digital Single Market strategy. The DSA aims to regulate online platforms and ensure a safer digital space by addressing issues such as illegal content, transparency in content moderation, and user right
Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD): sets out rules for audiovisual media services across the EU, including on-demand services and video-sharing platforms. It addresses issues like content standards, protection of minors, and promotion of European works.

 

For further details and updates on these regulations, you can refer to official sources such as:
• European Commission's website on Digital Single Market and Digital Economy: European Commission - Digital Single Market
• Official texts of the GDPR, DSA, DMA, AVMSD, and NIS Directive on the European Union's EUR-Lex website: EUR-Lex

 

Note:
These regulations provide comprehensive information on the legal framework and policies governing social and digital media in Europe and highlight Europe's proactive approach to addressing the challenges posed by social and digital media platforms. They aim to balance innovation with user protection, ensuring that digital services operate responsibly and contribute positively to society while respecting fundamental rights.

Engage, and extend your experience on the topic: research cases of misuse of social media and human rights violation cases 
Get Inspired: Reflect on the courage and creativity of past and present human rights activists who have driven change through their commitment to justice and solidarity.

Research and Compare: Explore historical documents and current media to understand human rights issues in your country. Compare progress made over time and identify ongoing challenges.
Investigate Social Media Impact: Research cases of social media misuse contributing to human rights violations. Document instances and report violations to relevant authorities or organizations.
Advocate for Change: Collaborate with local organizations and use social media to raise awareness about human rights issues. Advocate for policies that protect rights online and offline, ensuring accountability and combating misinformation.

 

By following these steps, you can actively contribute to advancing human rights in your community and online. 

 


Extended insights for practice: Dreaming together
Explore Human Rights in Arts by engaging in the following exercises:

 

Hundertwasser's comment on the artwork THE RIGHT TO DREAM: 
Dreams are the last kingdom where a man can take refuge and recover. Spoiling dreams is like taking away the roots and the future from man and nothing is left for him to long for. Man lives and feeds off dreams. Taking constantly away dreams from man in our rationalistic society is a crime because dreams are the precondition of creation.


Engage in interpretation of Hundertwasser´s comment to his artwork, explain what dreams mean for you and what right from your personal need would you promote. 
Ensemble your dreams within a collective action: who else might share your idea and for what purposes? What can be improved for many by establishing your idea? 
How can dreams be brought to real life, when thinking of dreams as visionary ideas for innovating, renovating, and improving life conditions? Make notes and share your responses with your colleagues and people who might support your ideas.  
Extend: The next quote by Josephine Baker reminds us to “wake up” in order to be able to realize our dreams:
"To realize our dreams, we must decide to wake up."
Josephine Baker

 

Interpret: what makes us decide to “wake up”? 
 

Deciding to "wake up" often comes from a moment of realization or awareness that something important needs our attention. This could be a personal experience, a significant event, or a powerful piece of information that disrupts our usual way of thinking and compels us to take notice and act. It involves a shift in perception where we recognize the importance of our dreams or goals and understand that passive dreaming isn't enough—we must actively engage and work towards making them a reality.
 

Thinking metaphorically, how would you interpret the quote in the context of Human Rights activism including Climate activism? At what point are you making decision to take action
 (“decide to wake up”)?  

 

Have you experienced reaching a point of awareness where the injustices or dangers facing our world are no longer ignorable? 
It is the moment when individuals or groups realize the urgency of these issues and decide to take action rather than remain passive observers. This awakening can be triggered by witnessing the effects of climate change, understanding the depth of systemic inequality, or being inspired by the courage of other activists. It is the point where one decides that they must contribute to the solution, recognizing their responsibility and potential impact.
Reflect on experiences and events by which you became aware of an issue that you perceived as emerging and needing to be maintained, and how you took action to do so.
Situate the issue within a particular context, while thinking about details such as: what might be the cause, what is the nature of the cause, and how did your actions contribute to addressing the issue?
Evaluate the effectiveness of your actions (if taken) and those of others:  
Reflecting on the actions taken, it is essential to evaluate their effectiveness in achieving the desired outcomes.
Develop a plan for future actions to enhance the impact of your efforts.
To build on the progress made, it is crucial to develop a comprehensive plan for future actions

 

Conclusion: 
The principle of dignity emphasizes the intrinsic value and worth of every human being. 
The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights enshrined human dignity in its preamble, highlighting the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace. Sustainability is grounded in the recognition that 
everyone has the right to a better life, 
one based on dignity and fundamental human rights, 
while acknowledging our interconnectedness within a global ecosystem.

 

Keep watching, connect&act

Share your examples, campaign, ideas, connect with the local/national/global Human Rights initiatives

 

Connect&actnow:
ActNow is the United Nations campaign to inspire people to act for the Sustainable Development Goals. The Goals can improve life for all of us. Cleaner air. Safer cities. Equality. Better jobs. These issues matter to everyone. But progress is too slow. We have to act, urgently, to accelerate changes that add up to better lives on a healthier planet.
What happens when millions of people act together for our common future? A lot. Join the campaign to learn more— and do more.

 

ACTNOW
https://www.un.org/en/actnow

 

Tatjana Christelbauer MA

June 2024

 

 

 

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