Amnesty International’s Visit Not Inspirational

Last week, USF welcomed Secretary General, Irene Khan and Executive Director, Larry Cox of Amnesty International to promote Irene Khan’s new book The Unheard Truth.  A panel discussion followed a book signing.  I want to be open about my bias: I do not think capitalism is evil.  What was supposed to be a dialogue between Amnesty International and the USF community, turned out to be a platform for political propaganda.

It is the university’s duty to invite organizations onto campus that provide opportunities to connect with them and “educate our hearts and minds to change the world.”  Amnesty International seems like the perfect organization to have on campus because of their accomplishments in social justice. It is a great example of the USF and of the Jesuit mission.  In addition, a connection to a big name like Amnesty International boosts USF’s prestige as an educational institution.  Granted, the size and breadth of Amnesty International’s influence is impressive. But is all that sparkles gold?  Did Amnesty International provide a quality educational experience that its prestige promises?

I attended the event to learn about their accomplishments, future goals, and their new campaign called “Demand Dignity.” I also expected to hear personal stories of the people Amnesty International has helped and solutions to the problems presented.  To an extent, I did learn about some of these topics.  But that was only a small portion of the content that Khan and Cox provided.

Both Khan and Cox explained Amnesty International’s new approach to addressing human rights issues, called Demand Dignity.  This new approach is moving away from focusing only on the economic perspective and toward a more comprehensive approach.  The new approach packages the previously separate social, cultural, economic and civil rights all under human rights.

From there, the “discussion” branched off into all the hot topics that cover the front pages of newspapers- climate change, healthcare and the economic crisis, as well as the more traditional human rights topics- human trafficking, maternal mortality and abuse of factory workers.  The discussion turned into a lecture on Amnesty International’s political opinions, which were supported by questionable figures, misinformation and trendy catch-phrases.  The content of the lecture was layered with messages that promote President Obama’s healthcare bill and strongly oppose capitalism.

For example, Cox is in favor of the liberal healthcare bill because all the other developed countries provide “access to healthcare.”  We already have government programs that provide access to healthcare.  The proposed bill is about taxation, increased government control and income redistribution, not healthcare.

Further, while addressing human trafficking, Khan stated that issues like these are a “by-product of economic growth” and “movement of free capital.”  In other words, capitalism causes abuse of human rights.  This does not make sense.

Overall, Khan and Cox talked more about their political agenda than human rights.  The message that I walked away with was to vote for the healthcare bill and hate capitalism.  I was not inspired to join Amnesty International to help fight for the people whose human rights are abused.


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