written by Yvet Jody – One Young World The Hague Ambassador
Every summer I volunteer at festivals for Amnesty International. Besides being a great place to check out the latest bands and to enjoy the sweet summer sun, festivals are great places to get petitions signed: there are many people in a relaxed atmosphere who have a lot of free time on their hands. So armed with many petitions, me and a group of fellow volunteers brought pen and paper to the people to talk about human rights.
Besides the question if signing will cost money (no it won’t), the most common question I get is: ‘will it work?’. Just a simple signature on a paper for a human rights activist seems to many a simple thing to do. Suspiciously simple. Thus, besides convincing people to support the cause of the petition, I explained many times the function of the petition itself.
This simple task, done in a few seconds while waiting in line for some overly expensive festival-food, can change lives. One autograph is the beginning of many. While 17.000 people at Lowlands signed the petition to help Ukrainian women- and LGBT-rights activist Vitalina Koval, so did many others around the globe. By explaining and convincing others this weekend what our human rights are, many signed and helped to defend them. All these signed petitions will be brought to the local embassy’s. These will not only show that we are familiar with human rights, but also that we urge others to respect them.
In 2017 Amnesty International launched a petition for Bahraini activist Ebtisam al-Saegh, which led to his release after four months. Also the petition for Leyla and Arif Yunus, a journalist couple from Azerbeidzjan, resulted in their freedom. While many still await their freedom, I hope international pressure will help activists to be free to defend our human rights. However, I also hope we will not only keep questioning “will it work?, but also start to make it work, just as many One Young World leaders. OYW counsellor and Secretary General of Amnesty International Salil Shetty described this as ‘the positive energy and can-do spirit’ of OYW, which hopefully many of you will experience during One Young World The Hague.
Music is a great way to bring people together. Music Festivals are for many the pinnacles of feeling free. At Lowlands punk and poetry legend Patti Smith brought young and old together to preach while singing Power to The People: ‘don’t forget to use you voice’. And to be fair: after talking to so many people at this Lowlands festival I almost mine, but I was still more than willing to use the remaining vocal sounds I had left.
Yvet Jody – One Young World The Hague Ambassador