It’s not uncommon to be stopped on the streets of NYC by some kind of advocate. Last summer when I was walking around the city, I was stopped by someone asking me if I’d like to help out with Amnesty International (AI). Although he was a bit too pushy with his pitch for my liking, the international think tank’s name stuck with me nonetheless. After reading this week’s prompt, Amnesty International almost immediately popped back up in my mind and I decided it might be a good idea to take a look into this NGO and see exactly was I was being asked to buy into.

According to their website, Amnesty International was founded in 1961 and focuses on any major human rights issues. They currently have over 3 million supporters in over 150 countries and offices in more than 80 of those countries. Their website contains a list of different types of activism they partake in, including direct lobbying, public demonstrations and vigils. They primarily focus on six human rights issues: women’s/children’s/minorities’/indigenous rights, ending torture, abolition of the death penalty, refugee rights, rights of prisoners of conscience, and protection of human dignity. They have been active in events such as apartheid in South Africa and have organized awareness events such as the Human Rights Now! tour in 1988. They received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977 for its campaign against torture.

Amnesty International’s advocacy does seem to be far reaching. You can’t deny the power in the fact that they are present in over 150 countries. However, there are a couple of current issues that they have that would most likely prevent me from wanting to work with this think tank. Many have questioned AI USA’s ability to protect employees overseas. More recently, a major issue of AI paying off one of their former secretary-general’s over 4 times her annual salary to step down, as she and the organization’s views began to differ. This is especially strange when I remember that when I was approached in NYC by Amnesty International, they claimed that they needed help because they didn’t have enough funding.

While they do seem to do good work, it seems as though they may have some issues for the time being. There is actually a Wikipedia page that lists current criticisms of the organization. OnThinkTanks.org actually questions the NGO’s credibility as a think tank, even though it is often listed on top think tank lists. Overall, I think that while they might aim to do the right things, Amnesty International is an organization that has some issues to work out.

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2 responses »

  1. Jordi says:

    There is a difference between research and advocacy, right? Does AI do research? Who is criticizing them and why?

    • Marc says:

      There definitely is a difference. I think the biggest problem that think tank supporters, such as OnThinkTanks.org, have with AI is that they mostly focus on spreading the word rather than showing facts and research. I think that most think tanks would like to see the advocacy backed up with the research. Other criticism has come from the fact that although they claim to want to push advocacy for all human rights issues, they tend to focus on regions that help push their interests, whether financial or ideological. It just seems like they have a history of stating one thing and acting in a different manner.

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