Amnesty International and Human Rights

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So this Friday (or tomorrow, depending if I finish this today or not) I have an interview at Amnesty International. The position for a Volunteer Internal Communications Adviser  and understandably so, I am very nervous along with excited at the prospect of working for the world renowned non-government organization. 

Hence I thought in light of he impending interview, and my need to prepare, perhaps it best I write a post pertaining to the history of the organization, along with some useful information regarding Human Rights, and some of the work Amnesty does. Also to finish with, I’m going to give some pro tips for job interviews I found on the intertubes.

Let the good times roll.


It all started with one man and a vision…

“Open your newspaper any day of the week and you will find a story from somewhere of someone being imprisoned, tortured or executed because his opinions or religion are unacceptable to his government…The newspaper reader feels a sickening sense of impotence. Yet if these feelings of disgust could be united into common action, something effective could be done.”

The tale of two Portuguese men and a toast to liberty…
Peter Benenson – the man who started Amnesty International firmly believed that collectively we can instigate change in this world. One autumn day over half a century ago, Peter happened to come across an article whilst traversing the London Underground. The story in question was of 2 Portuguese  students from the municipality of Coimbra in Portugal. The two men had been unjustly detained for the peaceful expression of their beliefs. “Having drunk a toast to liberty” was an arrestable offence at the time, and in the Spring of 1961, both were sentenced to seven years in prison for this supposed crime. 

Benenson was not a man to stand idly by upon hearing such harrowing news. Rather than succumb to idleness in the face of such injustice, he chose to express his views and garner public support for their freedom. And it was here that Amnesty International was started, instigated by the writing of one very important article. One we might attribute to a categorical change in the world and how we view Human Rights. “The Forgotten Prisoner”, published in “The Observer” on 26th May 1961 marked this change. The article also launched “The Appeal for Amnesty”, calling for united “common action” to free the unjustly detained Portuguese men. 

This marked the birth of an idea – together we are strong, together we can cause monumental change in the world. Benenson’s appeal for amnesty on the 28th of May 1961, became the starting date, but since then Amnesty International has matured, pervading much of the world to help mitigate human rights abuses far and wide. The primary objective of the organisation remains the same,  which is to “to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated,” but much of how this has accomplished has changed. The prevalence of the internet has dramatically altered the manner in which we communicate idea’s, and thereby a great deal of Amnesty’s public awareness campaigns, petitions, donations and the like, are accomplished through this prevailing medium. 

Amnesty International and the work they do…


There are 6 key area’s in which Amnesty International attempts to deal with using the donations and efforts of their 3 million members worldwide. These are outlined below:


-1-
Women’s, children’s, minorities’ and indigenous rights
There is an estimated 5,000 minority groups in the world, and more than 200 countries and territories have significant ethnic, religious or linguistic minority groups. About 900 million people belong to groups that experience disadvantage as a result of their identity, with 359 million facing restrictions on their right to practise their
religion. Minorities are among the most marginalized communities in many societies. In wealthy countries as well as in the least developed regions, they are often excluded from participation in socio-economic life, and experience long-term poverty. People from minority groups rarely have access to political power to influence policies, or a government that is accountable to them. Furthermore, they frequently encounter obstacles to manifesting their minority identity, such as not being able to speak their own language freely, profess their religion, or enjoy traditional cultural practices. Last but not least, minorities are the habitual victims of conflict, facing violence, ethnic or religious persecution, and in the extreme case, genocide.

-2-
Ending torture
Torture is the practice or act of deliberately inflicting severe physical pain and possibly injury on a person, though psychological and animal torture also exist…Reasons for torture can include punishment, revenge, political re-education, deterrence, interrogation or coercion of the victim or a third party, or simply the sadistic gratification of those carrying out or observing the…[Torture] is considered to be a violation of human rights, and is declared to be unacceptable by Article 5 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Signatories of the Third Geneva Convention and Fourth Geneva Convention officially agree not to torture prisoners in armed conflicts. Torture is also prohibited by the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which has been ratified by 147 countries.

Despite these international conventions, organizations that monitor abuses of human rights report widespread use condoned by states in many regions of the world. Amnesty International estimates that at least 81 world governments currently practice torture, some of them openly.

-3-
Abolition of the death penalty
The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights. It is the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state. This cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment is done in the name of justice.
It violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to kill the prisoner.

-4-
Rights of refugees
A refugee is a person who has fled from their own country due to human rights abuses they have suffered there because of who they are or what they believe in, and whose own government cannot or will not protect them. As a result, they have been forced to seek international protection. Refugee rights include:
1. Protection from being forcibly returned to a country where they would be at risk of persecution.
2. Protection from discrimination
3. Protection from penalties for illegal entry
4. The right to work, housing and education
5. The right to freedom of movement
6. The right to identity and travel documents
-5-
Rights of prisoners of conscience
A prisoner of conscience was defined by Benenson as:
“Any person who is physically restrained (by imprisonment or otherwise) from expressing (in any form of words or symbols) any opinion which he honestly holds and which does not advocate or condone personal violence. We also exclude those people who have conspired with a foreign government to overthrow their own.”

Most often associated with the human rights organisation Amnesty International, Benenson’s article was instrumental in its foundation, the term can refer to anyone imprisoned because of their race, religion, or political views. It also refers to those who have been imprisoned and/or persecuted for the non-violent expression of their conscientiously held beliefs.

-6-
Protection of human dignity
Everyone wants their dignity respected and protected. We understand this concept intuitively. But what does dignity mean for law and human rights? In the UK, dignity is an emerging legal concept, an adjunct to human rights, which is used to protect people’s humanity and identity. As such, it sits in the wider human rights landscape of the European convention on human rights (ECHR) brought into UK law through the Human Rights Act (HRA) 1998.
Protecting and defining dignity through human rights law is not always a straightforward business, especially because it often raises, in the words of the European court of human rights, a question of civilisation. Every breach of human dignity not only affects the individual victim, but also society as a whole, by raising the question of how we choose to live (and die) and relate to each other. It thereby calls into question the state’s role in protecting our dignity. 

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948 at Palais de Chaillot, Paris. The Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled. The full text is published by the United Nations on its website.
http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml

It consists of 30 articles which have been elaborated in subsequent international treaties, regional human rights instruments, national constitutions and laws. The International Bill of Human Rights consists of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its two Optional Protocols. In 1966 the General Assembly adopted the two detailed Covenants, which complete the International Bill of Human Rights; and in 1976, after the Covenants had been ratified by a sufficient number of individual nations, the Bill took on the force of international law.

Read More: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Declaration_of_Human_Rights

Overall Amnesty International have been a presiding force in the enforcement of Human Rights worldwide, and cover a broad range of abuses. I would recommend you do your own reading into the UDHR and the organization, and perhaps think about volunteering or becoming a member. 

All of us at some point in our lives have been made to feel small, have been powerless to help ourselves – as long as there are people being oppressed, there will always be people trying to win back and uphold their unalienable rights. Keep on fightin’ yo!!


So now for some pro Interview Tips: 
So I’m not gonna take credit for these tips…I found them on reddit. But very useful information nonetheless, and worth a read, even if you are fortunate enough to have a job. 
And to those of us who arnt fortunate enough to have employment, good luck with the job hunt, I hope these tips prove useful.
1. Answer their questions. Lots of people will start answering the question but never really finish because they go off on a tangent halfway through. It’s frustrating as an interviewer to have to ask someone to get back on point, but it’s also a little embarrassing for the candidate and it can throw you off your rhythm. I want to know the information because it’s important. It also shows you listened to what was being asked of you and you delivered what was required.
2. At the end of the interview, ask if they have any concerns about your resume, your interview answers or your application in general. It’s a great way to see if there is anything they perhaps misunderstood or you didn’t explain well enough. I’ve asked this in every interview and in all but one it’s given me some immediate feedback and the ability to allay any concerns they might have. For example, I once had someone say I interviewed great but they were concerned I lived too far away, something that didn’t come up in the interview. I was able to then say I would be relocating.
3. Do interview prep before you go. You should be able to predict most of the questions, but just writing down what your strengths are and thinking about them will increase your confidence. Make notes on the company and role from the job description; how does that match up with your skills and experience? This crossover is important because it’s usually why they will hire you.
4. Take a notepad, for example the one you used for your interview notes. Make sure you ask if it’s okay that you have your notes out, or if you can take notes during the interview. You won’t always be able to do this because of a strict NDA, but that’s why you ask. Good things to write down include the person’s name since it can be easy to forget, especially if more than one person is interviewing you.
5. Ask what the next steps are and when you might be hearing from them. Use your instincts when it comes to follow up. If you interviewed at retail and it went well, check in with the manager in a week and let them know you enjoyed your interview and you’ll be available to start very soon if they pick you. But if you interview at a large company that specifically doesn’t take phone calls then don’t harass them. If I’m in HR you email me asking when you will hear, chances are I’m chasing the hiring manager for an answer too.
6. Do not be scared of failure. If you perform poorly, you’ll know it straight away and my best advice is just to take the rest of the day off and forget it. Then when you’re feeling better try to figure out why it went poorly; bad preparation etc. I find a big one is the stress of getting somewhere new, where to park, who to ask for when I get there etc. Then work on these for the next interview.
If you did well and didn’t get it, there was probably someone better. Don’t take it personally. 
And always look for an occupation that enthuses you – do what you love and you’ll have a great deal more satisfaction in life (or so I’m told). 
I hope this post proved to be insightful friends, till next time…

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