My Way – Human Rights

“I only realised that I was was only lucky to be born in the right country, in the right family. I really worked hard for my studies but I was just born in the right family with the right parents: they brought me to cinemas, exhibitions and so on. But this has been given to me – I did the extra effort to be good, but no more.

I lot of people say that young people are committed and are keen on changing the world. This did not apply to my life. We were 8 brothers and sisters and my parents just tried to cope with us. There were no political discussions in my home. The social background was very catholic and bourgeois – don’t show your emotions, you do not talk about your feelings: I just lived in a bubble. I followed the bubble and I had to wait until 40 to find out about me living in one – and finally to change it. I had a huge midlife crisis with 40. I spent quite a good number of years to find out who I really am. Now I am much more committed and fight for the good causes compared to when I was twenty.

I used to work in advertisement for about 15 years and I had no questions about it. It was all about having fun and clever ideas but I was never questioning what I was doing in terms of consumption – only pushing and marketing. It was a pleasant experience, because people where creative and fun. But today I really don’t know how I could use all my time or energy on this. But on one point I wasn’t able to do this anymore.

Was there a special moment which changed everything? Not really. I guess two things got together. The idea of doing the same thing forever – at least professionally – I did not find exciting anymore and on a personal level the separation of  the father of my daughter was probably a starting point. I quit my job and only kept on working on projects to make a living. At that time I learned that Human Rights Watch wanted to open an office in France and was looking for people. I started working part time – for financially reasons – but I was excited by the idea of a world wild global scale and by the good cause.

I divided my salary by two when I changed my life, so it was clearly a huge decision. But there was something even stronger than me. At that time I didn’t know what it was. But both parts – the change in job and Yoga – really opened my consciousness to the world: to deeply found who I am; to be deeply connected to the others, to the world, to the planet. So it was quite a journey and I do not regret it – not at all. This lead to a change of lifestyle and friends. You meet a lot more and different people. I think it is quite interesting to do this when you are forty. It brings you to a totally new life. It is a beautiful journey.

This job at Human Rights Watch fulfils my sense of justice. I discovered for me that my sense for injustice is very strong and Human Rights Watch is really fighting for the right and the dignity of the most vulnerable people in the world.

Our goal at Human Rights Watch it is to push the governments on their foreign policy and try to include human rights on the political agenda. In order to be able to do that we are working within the legal borders to investigate on violations of human rights. When we know the there is a systemic issue our investigators are taking pictures, talking to people, recording problems and so on. It is important to us to work with people on the ground who come from those countries. This means we have first hand information – a big strength of us.
After that we  bring those records to the right people who then have to change things.
On one side we expose the facts to the media: Classic media like Le Monde, New York Times, CNN, and more and more social media. It is about combing personal stories with perspective and a strong vision of the situation. Our data analyst then adds data to this first hand information. A good example for that was the satellite imaginary to proof that villages are getting destroyed in a systematic way in Burma. After taking a look at different satellite images of the same area over time you can not say anymore that this is just a few houses being destroyed. But you could see that the Muslim villages of the Rohingyas have been destroyed and not the other villages. It was very clear that this was an ethnic cleansing at least.

We want to be a source of real and true information and not of fake news. But it is difficult right now to promote the truth versus anything which can go into social media. A difficulty in this is that you have to react quickly in social media on one side but you also do not want to jeopardise the facts. This is a huge tension: to be able to follow the information but not compromise the quality of your information. We spend a lot of time checking videos or information we receive if they are a real thing or not.

And then we push for change: companies, governments, institutions, corporations, It is high level advocacy, diplomacy with the UN,  the security council, the  council for human rights in Geneva, the European Union in Brussels, the parlaments and so on. We push the politicians and try to connect with all them at the conferences like in Davos or the. For example there are only two NGOs invited to the Munich security conference and we are one of them.
So we push for systemic change – it is a change in the law, a new law or in a convention. We push for investigation with the UN. For example in Syria we are working longterm for the prosecution of the ISIS for International justice. One big success we had was that the Congolese warlords has been prosecuted or the former dictator of the Chad has been sentenced to life inprisonment. We worked on that for over 12 years on the side of the victims.”

Dieses Interview habe ich schon im Oktober dieses Jahres aufgenommen, aber es hat einige Zeit gebraucht, bis ich es aufschreiben und abstimmen konnte. Und jetzt passt das Thema irgendwie wieder sehr gut: an Weihnachten denken so viele darüber nach, was sie aus ihrem Leben machen wollen.

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