Peter Gabriel was honoured with the 2008 Ambassador of Conscience (AOC) award in London on Wednesday 10 September, at the launch of Amnesty International’s global music and human rights project, the Small Places Tour. The event, held at the Hard Rock Cafe, outlined a preliminary list of 545 Small Places concerts (that could grow in excess of 1000 events) in 50 countries. The musician and human rights campaigner received the Amnesty International Award from former recipient, U2 guitarist the Edge. Other people to previously hold the title are Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, Hilda Gonzalez and Mary Robinson. Now in its sixth year, the AOC recognises exceptional individual leadership in the fight to protect and promote human rights. Following the lunch-time event, The Small Places Tour kicked-off with an evening concert in Los Angeles with Mexican rock band Jaguares. Artists on the Small Places Tour will use their music to inspire and engage new human rights activists throughout the world. Events will include 11 September concerts in Namibia highlighting human rights in Zimbabwe; and in Estonia with REM where fans will engage in Amnesty International’s campaign to release Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners in Myanmar. The tour will culminate on International Human Rights Day on 10 December, with dozens of concerts held throughout the world. The Small Places Tour celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and is inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt’s call for “concerted citizen action” in her “Small Places” speech. The tour stresses the importance of human rights “at home” – in communities, schools, and workplaces. Roosevelt said, “Where after all do universal human rights begin? In small places close to home. So close and so small that they can’t be seen on any map of the world.” Peter Gabriel first worked with Amnesty during the Conspiracy of Hope Tour in 1986 and then on 1988’s groundbreaking tour Human Rights Now! Gabriel went on to found Witness, a video community campaigning for human rights and more recently The Elders, a private alliance of senior global figures to launch diplomatic assaults on the globe’s most intractable problems.
Speaking about his award, Gabriel said, “It was through the tours for Amnesty International that I first met many people around the world engaged in human rights work. It was these people and their extraordinary stories of suffering and courage that I found impossible to walk away from, so the Ambassador of Conscience Award means a great deal to me. “I hope that the Small Places Tour on the 60th anniversary of the UDHR will really help to reinforce and underpin this extraordinary document that has been crucial to the lives of so many citizens of the world, and to be a similar source of inspiration to all those who take part.” The AOC is run by Art for Amnesty. Its founder Bill Shipsey said “Peter has been at the vanguard of the struggle for human rights and justice around the world for nearly a quarter of a century and has inspired many others to join that struggle. He is an Ambassador in the truest sense of the word.” Amnesty International has long enjoyed a successful history of partnering with artists to build the human rights movement. The organization’s global Conspiracy of Hope and Human Rights concerts with U2, Peter Gabriel, Bruce Springsteen, and many others, resulted in hundreds of thousands of new activists joining Amnesty International. Amnesty International’s recent Make Some Noise/Instant Karma CD featured 20 artists including Green Day, U2, and Gwen Stefani and raised funds and awareness to support the organization’s efforts to end the killing in Darfur. Last year’s Aliados con Amnesty tour with the band Jaguares inspired almost 75,000 Latino youth to take action to stop violence against women. Hundreds of these activists have since become human rights leaders in their communities.