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Oslo Freedom Forum Spotlights The Global Struggle For Human Rights
This blog was originally posted on www.freedomcollection.org In early May, I had the privilege of attending the annual Oslo Freedom Forum, a three-day gathering of human rights and democracy activists, dissidents, policy experts, and media representatives from around the world, organized by the Human Rights Foundation. Beginning in 2009, the forum has aimed to highlight the impact that a single individual can have on the world around them. The Oslo Freedom Forum brought together several hundred advocates and activists, making it one of the largest gatherings of its kind in the world. Through speeches, presentations and panel discussions, speakers sought to bring human rights issues to public attention, publicize the stories and efforts of democracy and human rights activists, build a network of advocates, and exchange ideas on lessons learned and best practices. This year’s theme was “Out of Darkness, Into Light,” and the organizers placed a special emphasis on encouraging and inspiring activists in the world’s most difficult environments to continue their efforts. Participants from across the greater Middle East and North Africa discussed the amazing progress and formidable challenges ahead for the Arab Spring. Signs of hope from places like Tunisia and Egypt stand in sharp contrast to continued violence and repression in countries like Syria and Bahrain. The forum highlighted ongoing global problems such as prison conditions, censorship, slavery and sex trafficking. This year’s Oslo Freedom Forum honored three courageous activists – Ai Weiwei from China, Manal al-Sharif from Saudi Arabia, and Aung San Suu Kyi from Burma – with the inaugural Vaclav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent. Several of the speakers were particularly compelling to me. Jestina Mukoko is a former journalist turned civil society activist from Zimbabwe. Her efforts to improve her country’s dismal human rights record angered the regime, which abducted and tortured her. Now a former political prisoner, Jestina Mukoko continues her efforts for non-violent change in Zimbabwe. Tutu Alicante is an attorney and human rights activist from Equatorial Guinea. Rich in oil, Equatorial Guinea has a per capita income rivaling developed nations. But rule by a corrupt dictatorship means that most in the country live on less than a dollar a day. Despite a violent, seemingly entrenched regime, Tutu Alicante remains optimistic and confident that things will improve in his homeland. For activists like Jestina and Tutu, the Oslo Freedom Forum is a rare opportunity to publicize the difficult conditions in their countries. For me, the forum offered a chance to learn from and interact with some truly inspiring individuals. This post was written by Lindsay Lloyd, Program Director of the Freedom Collection.
Lindsay Lloyd is the Director of the Human Freedom Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute, where he manages original research and programmatic efforts to advance freedom and democracy in the world. Lindsay currently leads the Bush Institute’s Freedom in North Korea project, which raises awareness of human rights violations in North Korea, proposes new policy solutions, and engages leaders to help improve the lives of the North Korean people. Lindsay is also responsible for managing the Freedom Collection, a multimedia archive that documents the stories of nonviolent freedom advocates from around the word.
Prior to joining the Bush Institute, Lindsay served for 16 years at the International Republican Institute (IRI), most recently as senior advisor for policy. Previously, he was IRI’s regional director for Europe and co-director of the regional program for Central and Eastern Europe, which was based in Slovakia. At IRI, Lindsay worked with candidates, elected officials, political parties, and civil society activists to develop lasting democratic institutions.
Before joining IRI, Lindsay worked for several members and the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives, as political director for a political action committee, and for Jack Kemp’s 1988 presidential campaign. He graduated from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.Full Bio