By Amy Robbins
Amy Robbins is a member of the WITNESS Board of Directors and was the 2011 Focus for Change Benefit Dinner and Concert Co-Chair.
As WITNESS celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, I wanted to write a brief note to describe why I support this outstanding, and vital organization. I know many of you reading this share my view because you, too, strongly support WITNESS’s efforts.
WITNESS has always been known as an organization that promotes the use of video to support human rights campaigns. But with the Cameras Everywhere initiative, WITNESS is moving in a very new, very bold direction – reaching beyond basic activism to partner with allies in business, technology and media to foster a more conducive environment for the safe and effective use of video.
WITNESS has learned that it is one thing to capture human rights abuse on video, and quite another to ensure that the video is properly authenticated and safely distributed. With the Cameras Everywhere initiative, WITNESS is working with media organizations and technology companies to ensure that video documentation of human rights abuse reaches the widest possible audience – without jeopardizing activists or victims.
This approach is not without risk, but risk-taking is a hallmark of the WITNESS spirit. As I’ve observed over the years, the organization is constantly reinventing itself to become more collaborative, more nimble, and more strategic. And as this new program demonstrates, WITNESS has the courage to innovate, which is what inspires me to stay involved and to offer my support.
I think of a group like the Egyptian Democratic Academy (EDA) and the risks their brave young activists are taking to create change in Egypt. They received WITNESS training in 2010 before the Arab Spring started which enabled them to respond by using video strategically and safely. How many more activists could change the course of history in Egypt and protect freedoms if they had been properly trained to use video?
How much safer would members of EDA be if they had the WITNESS app to protect their identities while filming? (Learn more about this free mobile app here.) The Cameras Everywhere initiative is designed to address these challenges by creating and sharing tools, knowledge and information that will allow both activists and victims to tell their stories in a safe and effective manner, consistent with the highest journalistic and ethical standards.
Cameras Everywhere – and everything WITNESS does to promote and facilitate the documentation of human rights abuse – deserves our wholehearted, enthusiastic support. The way I see it, each and every one of us has a role to play in helping WITNESS expand its mission. And if we do our part, we will have a significant impact on those at the grassroots level doing the really hard work… putting their lives on the line, and bearing witness.