Amnesty International’s Adotei Akwei sat down with Melissa and Shiv to discuss making human rights about human beings, the power of “click activism,” and his life path.
Adotei Akwei is managing director of government relations for Amnesty International USA. Since 1988, he has worked with a focus on human rights and U.S. foreign policy toward Africa, working at CARE USA, the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, the American Committee on Africa, and The Africa Fund.
How can activists personalize human rights abuses to garner the attention of the world? Akwei discusses the influence of Nelson Mandela on his life path, the role of journalism and social media in exposing truth, the role of NGOs and government, and his personal definitions of success. He touches upon universal trends in human rights work as well as Trump's Muslim ban and the role of social media activism in this round of cabinet nominations.
“The power of journalism to make things very immediate is incredibly important. We at Amnesty do something like that. When the organization was founded in 1961, it was found to fight for the rights of individuals, and it wasn’t just that individuals were having their rights abused but it was also that it humanized human rights. Up until then, human rights were the work of governments - governments sign treaties, governments adhere to treaties, governments broke treaties - and the rest of us were just casual observers. And what Amnesty did, which is the most significant, was it made human rights about human beings - about individuals. And it made it very personal. “ (6:40)
“Social media, particularly Twitter, is the realm of engagement. May not be a good thing, but we can’t ignore it.” (10:40)
“This is where both the NGOs and the governments are failing: is that they see themselves as adversaries and I think that’s something we got to try to figure out how to get by, to get beyond.” (18:10)