Why is Amnesty International in Davos?

An Amnesty International delegation, led by Secretary General Irene Khan, arrived in Davos on for the World Economic Forum 2008, this year entitled The Power of Collaborative Innovation.

Among the sessions Irene Khan will be attending are: The Role of Women in the Business Environment of the 21st Century, Political Islam and Democracy and Tackling Global Issues through Corporate Global Citizenship.  

Judit Arenas, advisor to the Secretary General gives an insight into the real conversations happening in Davos, which occur outside the meetings, in coffee shops and corridors:

“The World Economic Forum in Davos is by now well underway and the key question Amnesty International keeps getting is ‘why are you here?’

“The answer is simple: we firmly believe in talking to those that can take steps to improve human rights. And in today’s world this means not just governments, but also companies.

“But, while we may be ‘inside’ Davos, let’s also be clear that this in no way means we compromise on our principles to speak truth to power and to seek change.

“So far, the discussions and input has been varied – of course, there’s a lot of interest in Pakistan (including some very interesting ‘advice’ from President Musharraf to Bangladesh’s Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed), the Middle East and the global economy.

“But, sadly, the World Economic Forum is far from being a multi-stakeholder initiative where all the stakeholders are equal and many of the global issues are still sorely lacking in representation on the formal agenda.”

On the side: the USA, UK and France discuss Myanmar yet arrests continue
“Everyone knows that it’s the side meetings that count in Davos, and government leaders are not exempt.

“The US Secretary of State and the foreign ministers of the United Kingdom and France issued a statement on democracy and human rights in Burma (now known as Myanmar).

“One can only welcome such a statement by three permanent members of the UN Security Council, in particular the statement’s categorical assertion – sadly, all too true – that ‘[s]everal months on, however, we find the regime has met none‘ of the demands of the UN Security Council.  

“One such demand is the early release of all political prisoners. Amnesty International just today made public research showing that at least 96 new arrests related to the demonstrations of last autumn have taken place in Myanmar since 1 November 2007. At least 15 such prisoners of conscience have been sentenced to prison during the same three-month period, and over 80 persons remain unaccounted for, likely the victims of enforced disappearance.

“These facts flatly contradict Myanmar’s claims that it would cooperate fully with the UN and would stop its politically-motivated arrests and trials.

“While we welcome and support the call made for the early release of all political prisoners, we still think it’s not enough: nothing short of the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience, at least 700 of whom are in prison on account of last autumn’s crackdown on peaceful political dissent is enough.

“Amnesty International also welcomes and strongly echoes the statement’s support for the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, Prof. Pinheiro, who has requested an opportunity to conduct a full-fledged fact-finding mission in Myanmar. This mission would include not only last autumn’s crackdown, but also the crimes against humanity and other human rights abuses perpetrated against ethnic minorities. We can only hope that the international community will fully support Prof. Pinheiro’s efforts.

“The joint statement claims that ‘[w]e cannot afford to forget’ the people of Myanmar, revealing yet again that the situation in Myanmar is indeed a threat to international stability and security, especially pertaining to other countries in the region.  

“And these words are very true: we cannot forget and we have not done so; the longstanding and widespread suppression of human rights in Myanmar affects us all.”