Contributor: Octavia Akoulitchev
I was lucky enough to attend the second day of the 2016 Amnesty Student Conference, which took place at the Human Rights Action Centre, in Shoreditch. Despite the searing rain and cold without, the atmosphere inside was electric. Student groups had gathered from across the country, not only to network, but to discuss the most pressing human rights issues and the best ways of tackling them. There were boards along the walls where you could write what you felt strongly about, but before I had time to write much the first part of the day was announced: ‘good news session’. This was an opportunity for the groups to share some of their greatest successes over the past year, and by the end of the session everyone was more enthusiastic than ever. Afterwards there was a plenary (‘creating rights-respecting communities’) led by the Human Rights Education Team, and then a choice of workshop (I went to the ‘Creative Campaigning workshop’) led by the renowned Dan Jones. The rest of the morning was filled with more networking, STAN elections, and activities.
I found the plenary on human rights in the UK the most inspiring event: Laura Trevelyan spoke brilliantly about Amnesty’s most major key projects of the moment, giving insider knowledge about the Against Hate and Human Rights Act Campaign. She was acerbic and precise: she gave a lot of advice on how best to argue for the two campaigns with respect to their most disputed elements, as well as how to deal with ebullient aggressors in a more general sense. She didn’t spout clichéd abstractions that we’ve all heard a hundred times before – she was pertinent. I came away with a much more concrete understanding not only of the Against Hate and Human Rights Act Campaign, but also how to deal constructively with people against those acts. The day ended with the STAN elections, and I left exhausted but very, very hopeful: the students, speakers, and campaigners there had showed me that all our writing letters, calling MPs, and going on marches, is working.