Human Rights Cannot Thrive Without Hope - Lessons for Civil Society

When you follow political and social developments all over the world, it is hard not to get disillusioned. While some countries such as Sudan or Algeria were recently successful in getting rid of their autocratic leaders, the overall picture looks grim. From rising inequalities and restrictions on social mobility, discrimination of marginalised groups, shrinking civic space to the persecution of activists and opposition with an increasing disregard for the rule of law; all of these trends are commonplace globally.

As civil society organisations, our task is to communicate and reveal such injustices. A lot of our work gives us reasons to be angry and pessimistic about the future. However, is it also our responsibility as civil society to spark hope and optimism?

“Yes!” says Thomas Coombes, Deputy Director of Communications at Amnesty International: “If you put all the new audience research together, it seems that every time we curse the darkness and trigger fear, not hope, we are losing people. We need to light more candles.” This research has shown that we have to generate positive emotions to get people on board who haven’t made up their minds yet and who are more prone to relate to humanistic and progressive values. Generally speaking, people are more likely to be responsive to rational and empathetic solutions if they feel safe. Coombes concludes that “instead of negative emotions like anger and fear, we need to trigger determination, empathy and hope.”

Hope-based communication

It is a great challenge for civil society organisations, whose very job it is to reveal the shortcomings of policies, politicians and governments, to implement this hope-based communications approach. This objective continues without doubt to be of crucial importance to our work. But at the same time we need to re-think our existing strategies of naming and shaming when we seem to be living in an age where leaders are becoming increasingly shameless. Moreover, we come to realise that telling stories becomes as important as presenting facts. If you are interested in the topic of hope-based communication, you should check out this to get some more inspiration.

International Civil Society Week in Belgrade

SOLIDAR together with our Serbian member “International Development Cooperation” participated in the International Civil Society Week in Belgrade, 8-10 April. While in Belgrade, we also had the opportunity to visit the IDC office in “New Belgrade” to discuss the possibilities of enhancing cooperation and learn more closely about their current projects, objectives and challenges.

The International Civil Society Week programme was organised by CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society organisations. Bridge47 coordinated several workshops on the topic of Global Citizenship Education. One part of the programme included a workshop on ‘hope-based communication’ delivered by Thomas Coombes from Amnesty International.

We want to thank all organisations and individuals involved for the organisation of this important gathering of global civil society.

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