3 Things to Keep in Mind when Lobbying For Human Rights

lobby weekOur biannual Amnesty International Lobby Week is about two weeks away, so now is the time to prepare for those meetings. Preparation is much more than setting a meeting date and encouraging people to attend. It’s also about making a good impression and not coming off as crazy human rights activists. Here are three things to keep in mind when lobbying for human rights so that these issues are treated as seriously as the issues pushed by big money and big companies.

Dress Appropriately

No, you don’t have to do formal business attire, and it might be best that you don’t since you don’t want to appear like a lobbyist from a big corporation or industry association. Instead, you should wear business casual or something that you would wear out to a restaurant. This way, you are still dress tastefully, but you also come across like someone from a grassroots organization. You know, like someone who isn’t paid to be there but is there on their own free will to encourage a few changes. This may not seem serious, but it does mean something when ordinary people take to time to talk to their politicians about the things they care about.

Prepare Your Talking Points

Yes, you want to think about what you want to say and to do your research, but you can take it one step further by memorizing and practicing your pitch as well. This is so that the issues appear polished and that you appear knowledgeably. You don’t want to read from a piece of paper or look like you’re worrying about getting things right or making a good impression. You can take your practice one step further by thinking about questions that might be asked, and preparing answers to those questions as well. Again, you don’t want to come across as someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about, or someone who can’t stray from their prepared notes.

On this note, make sure that everyone who attends the meeting has a role. You don’t want only one or two people talking if six people are going to be there. If six people are going to be there, then give every person something to say and a reason why they are at the meeting.

Know What You Want to Accomplish

You aren’t just there to talk to your Senator, Representative, or staff member. You want this person to do something, such as vote for/against a bill, to co-sponsor a bill, or to create legislation around a certain issue. Know what you want to accomplish before you go, and before you start preparing your talking points. As you are also aware of your goals and talking points, you should also be aware of what is negotiable and what isn’t negotiable. You don’t want to push for something that can’t be changed or won’t be changed.

Give reasons why that particular Senator or Representative should do whatever it is your advocating. This could include bringing up a previous bill that s/he supported, or a vote s/he made, or a statistic relevant to his/her constituents. It’s not enough to say that something’s great or important, because every issue is great or important to everyone who lobbies. You need to make the issue of human rights relevant to who your lobbying by showing why it’s great and important to that person.

Overall, think of your lobbying meeting as a conversation where you are trying to convince someone to see your side of things. There’s no reason to be nervous just because the person is an elected official or works with an elected official. Be firm and confident in the human rights you believe in! It’s the only way the people you are lobbying are going to believe in these concepts and ideals too.

U.S Set to Sign Arms Trade Treaty

Need to Get Through Senate First

UN Arms Trade TreatySecretary of State John Kerry announced this week that the Obama Administration intends to sign the U.N Arms Trade Treaty. Although this is a great step forward for the United States, it’s only half the story, as the treaty would have the be ratified by the Senate. This is the tough part, and this is where we come in to ensure the U.S participates in this treaty and does it’s part in preventing weapons from getting into the hands of human rights abusers.

Make a Difference with Amnesty International’s Upcoming Lobby Week

Our Senators will likely be in their district offices during the October 14-18 Congressional Recess. This week in October is Amnesty International’s biannual Lobby Week, and is a great time to encourage our Senators to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty. Participating in Lobby Week is a great opportunity to connect with your Members of Congress and to build your group’s capacity to advance human rights advocacy, such as regulating the arms trade and preventing weapons from getting into the hands of human rights abusers.

Although October 14-18 are the primary dates for our action, it’s encouraged that we schedule a meeting with the district office staff at any time during the month. Our chapter currently doesn’t have a date for lobbying, but if you sign up here or send us an email at amnestystl (at) gmail (dot) com, we can get a group together to urge Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill to support ratification.

Did You Know

In case you need a little extra convincing about the human rights perspective associated with the Arms Trade treaty, below are a few facts about the treaty and how the U.S contributes to the problem that the treaty is trying to solve.

  • At least 500,000 people die every year on average and millions more are displaced and abused as result of armed violence and conflict
  • The U.S is by far the world’s largest arms trader, accounting for around 30 per cent of conventional arms transfers in terms of value
  • The U.S supplies arms to more than 170 countries and has a mixed record of suspending arms supplies on human rights grounds
  • 86 countries have signed the ATT to date
  • Many – including key arms-producing countries in the European Union – are in the process of ratifying the ATT.
  • Shortly after 50 countries have ratified the treaty, it will enter into force

The 3 Pillars of Letter Writing Meeting Success

letter writing meeting successTomorrow is our monthly letter writing meeting, one of many that we’ve had since the beginning of our chapter. We wouldn’t do these unless the letters actually helped and unless the meetings were successful. Below are the three pillars of letter writing meeting success. If these pillars of success interest you at all, then below are also the details regarding our own meeting tomorrow and the cases that we’ll be working on. We hope to see you tomorrow.

3 Pillars of Letter Writing Meeting Success

  1. Writing Many Letters – The key to letter writing meeting success, and achieving success in these cases, it to write a lot letters. This can be a lot of letters on one case, or writing many letters overall on many cases. Part of what makes this method of activism work is that the more letters, the better, as they represent pressure and concern from all over the world.
  2. Sending Those Letters Individually – Since it’s the number of letters that matters, part of making an impact is sending those letters individually and placing each letter in its own envelope. With my old college chapter, we always sent our letters in one envelope, which isn’t the best. Sending the letters individually also means that if there’s a reply from the government, you’ll be able to receive it because they can address it to someone.
  3. Making a Difference with Your Letters – It’s easy to say that letter writing doesn’t help with releasing someone from prison or improving conditions. After all, results don’t happen right away, if they ever happen at all, but that doesn’t mean that commitment and persistence won’t mean anything. Our own chapter has released prisoners of conscience, and many other Amnesty International chapters can say the same when it comes to the work they’ve invested in their cases.

Letter Writing Meeting Topics

  • Pregnant woman held without charge in Bahrain
  • Flogging risk in Sudan
  • Cancer prisoner needing compassionate release in the United States
  • Prisoner of conscience rearrested in Saudi Arabia
  • Human rights activist stabbed in Mexico

Letter Writing Meeting Details

Who: Our Amnesty International chapter and those interested in human rights

What: To write letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience worldwide

When: 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Where: Hartford Coffee Company on the corner of Roger and Hartford, one block off of Arsenal

Why: Because people need our help and we can make a difference

How: Just show up to the meeting! We’ll provide the paper, pens, and pertinent information on each of the cases.

4 Things That Need to Be On Your Amnesty Chapter Website

Amnesty chapter website According to marketing software provider HubSpot, 51% of Millennials have visited a nonprofit’s website and connected with them on social media, while 46% have read a blog post on a nonprofit’s site. Of course, most non-profits like Amnesty International want to reach more than millennials, but they are a crucial demographic since it will be millennials advocating for causes, running chapters, and leading your non-profit in the coming years. You need to reach millennials now so that they’ll be a part of the organization when it’s time for them to take the reins. Here are four things that need to be on your Amnesty chapter website:

Easy Connections

Your Amnesty chapter website should make it very easy for someone to connect with you, whether that’s link to your social media page, to contact someone via phone or email, or to give a donation. These options should be clearly marked and easy to find. It’s okay if you only have one or two social media presences. Just make sure that those icons are above the fold (no scrolling or clicking is needed to find the icons. They are at or near the top of the home page).

A Clear Description of What Your Organization Does

Just like the social media icons and the contact information, your mission statement also needs to be front and center, as well as clear. People are finding out about you online, and if you don’t have that information for them to find, then you’re going to have a hard time educating people and recruiting members. They aren’t going to stick around on your website hunting for it.

When presenting this information, you also need to think beyond your organization name and the specific cause, but also words and issues related to those two things. This is so your website can show up in search engine rankings for those other terms. This also attracts those who want to work on maternal health, or women’s rights, or the death penalty, but may not realize that Amnesty International and your chapter have opportunities to work on those issues.

Regular Updates

Seventy-five percent of millennials said the biggest turnoff of a website is when its information hasn’t been updated recently, and this problem is likely to be a turnoff to all people, not just the 20-somethings. This doesn’t mean that you need to update your website every day, as just once or twice a week will suffice, but having a static website that showcases no changes at all won’t cut it. All you really need to update regularly is a blog, or a new announcement on the home page every other week, or an events page that changes regularly. You don’t need a new layout and you don’t need a link to the Twitter feed.

Reasons to Give and to Be Involved

Millennials are likely to give and to be involved, but they aren’t going to do it because you tell them to or because it will make them feel warm and fuzzy inside. They want to know that their $25 donation will have an impact and will make a difference, and they want to know that volunteering will make an impact and will make a difference. Therefore, make those reasons clear with success stories, testimonials, and statistics on what $25 can do for whatever cause your non-profit works on. Animal House Fund in St. Louis does a good job of this by outlining the different donation levels, and what each donation level can provide for their organization.

Related Links:

How to Recruit Members to Your Amnesty Chapter

What to Do for Your First Amnesty International Meeting

How to Use Facebook to Promote Human Rights

How to Use Facebook to Promote Human Rights

promote human rights facebookIf you want to use social media to promote human rights, then you need to be using Facebook. With over a billion members, other human rights activists, promoters, and concerned citizens are also on Facebook, and they are ready to receive your message. Here’s how human rights activists can use Facebook to promote human rights:

Share Links

This is the most obvious way to promote human rights: share links to articles, videos, and blog posts about human rights. They can either be your own or someone else’s, and you can share links either on your own page or on the page of another sympathetic group or publication. Make sure you don’t go overboard i.e. sharing 20 links about maternal health in Africa in one day. Don’t do too much in a single day, and try to vary the issue so you don’t come across as a crazed evangelist.

Tip: Add something to the link, instead of just sharing the URL. A question, a quick thought, or a fact or quote from the article will work well. This gives people a reason to click the link and to engage with whatever content you shared.

Tip 2: You can actually schedule your posts, so if you want to make sure you don’t go overboard, you can share on immediately and space out the others at two-hour intervals. Even though the scheduling featuring has been there for almost two years, many people don’t realize that this is possible.

Announce Events

The second most obvious way to promote human rights is to announce events, whether your own or someone else’s. Facebook’s event tool is invaluable in promoting the event and encouraging people to attend. However, promoting events on Facebook (and inviting people to attend) works better if you have a large or strong network of activists and supporters. If your network is small, or if your network doesn’t have many human rights activists and supporters in it, then announcing and promoting events will only get you so far. A good thing to do here is to promote these events on the groups and pages of others, where your target audience may be found.

Have a Presence

Besides your personal presence, your Amnesty International chapter should have a group page or a Facebook page as well. This is a great way to engage more passive members i.e. those who don’t come to meetings or events but care deeply about the issues. Since it’s a great way to engage people who don’t show up in person, the Facebook presence is then a great platform for sharing chapter news and events, encouraging volunteers for future events, sharing links, and keeping everyone up-to-date with what the organization is doing.

Run an Ad

If you can afford it (and if you already have a presence), then you can run an Facebook ad as a way to increase membership and/or fans on your Facebook page. If you choose to do this, make sure to follow tips such as linking to a Facebook page or a landing page, as simply linking to your chapter website doesn’t take the most advantage of anyone who clicks your ad. For $50, you can actually run a successful campaign for just one month, but $50 is a lot for individuals and some chapters. However, this is about the cheapest it takes to run a campaign, as it allows enough time for the campaign to run while keeping the cost per-click rate low enough to account for enough success.

Related Links:

4 Major Lessons I’ve Learned from All This Human Rights Work

How to Recruit Members to Your Amnesty Chapter

4 Effective Ways to Engage Amnesty Members

St. Louis Human Rights Event Updates

business meeting updatesIf you missed last night’s monthly business meeting, then you better pay attention! There are a lot of changes, events, and updates coming up over the next few months, so read this now to learn what’s going on. We don’t anyone complaining that they didn’t know, or that we didn’t announce it, or that they weren’t told. All the information is below for your perusal and benefit:

Dirty Wars Discussion Moved to November

If you haven’t started our Amnesty book-club book yet, then you have an extra month to read it and to prepare (which is desperately needed since our book choice is over 500 pages long). Our discussion meeting will no longer take place during our October business meeting. It will now be during our November business meeting because plans have changed for our October meeting.

Reggie Clemons Updates in October

Instead of the book discussion, our Missouri death penalty abolition coordinator, Meredith, will be presenting at our October meeting about what’s in store regarding the Reggie Clemons ruling. Even though it will be another six to 12 months before the Missouri Supreme Court addresses the Clemons case, by then, Amnesty International will have a plan of action and direction on the issue.

Midwest Regional Conference

Also at the October meeting, we will be finalizing plans for our trip to the Midwest Regional Conference in Cincinnati. This will be the last day to sign up to go, as we will be settling on a departure time and a mode of transportation. The conference is for an entire weekend, so this isn’t an easy decision, but don’t wait too long or else you will have to find your own way there if you want to attend. If you do want to attend, and you want to attend with the group, then you can let us know by sending us an email at amnestystl (at) gmail (dot) com.

Upcoming Dirty Wars Screening

Besides the conference and the death penalty abolition activities, one of our upcoming events is a screening of the documentary Dirty Wars, which is based on the current book club reading. As of now, we are planning to have this event in January, but we don’t have any further details. If you’re looking to take part in an event or to be involved with our chapter, then there’s plenty to look forward to in the coming months.

September Amnesty Business Meeting: Quick Plans and Updates

short business meeting

Seriously, our Amnesty business meetings are this much fun, even the short ones

Tomorrow, we’ll be having a short September business meeting to go over a few quick plans and updates regarding chapter events. One of the main things that we will be doing is planning our trip to the Midwest Regional Conference in Cincinnati coming up in November. If you are interested in attending with us, then it’s important that you make this meeting. We will need a head count, and it’s vital that you are part of the plans so that you are aware of travel arrangements and the logistics of the event.

Meeting Details

Who: Amnesty International members and human rights advocates (particularly those interested in attending the regional conference)

What: A meeting to discuss upcoming events and current affairs.

When: 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Where: Hartford Coffee Company on the corner of Roger and Hartford. We will meet in the main dining area, unless there isn’t enough room. If that’s the case, then we will head to the back study/meeting area.

Why: Because there’s much to talk about and much to be done!

Continue Reading Dirty Wars

At the next Amnesty business meeting, we will be discussing our latest book club choice, so read as much of the book as possible in preparation. You don’t have to read the entire book, but Dirty Wars is over 500 pages, so reading the first 50 pages might not give you much content and analysis to contribute to any discussion. Unfortunately, no one in the chapter has a copy for people to borrow, so you will have to obtain a copy on your own.

3 Things You Can Do about Syria Right Now

syria chemical weaponsAs Congress contemplates going to war with Syria (and as a majority of the American public opposes any sort of opposition or military action), it might seem like there’s not a lot we can do about the situation or to change the mind of our government. However, that notion is false, and there are three things that you can do right now about Syria and about the decision our representatives make regarding the U.S response. Here’s what you can do about Syria right now:

Call Congressman Lacy Clay (if you’re in St. Louis)

Congressman Lacy Clay is taking a poll on how people feel about the bombing of Syria. His vote will reflect those who call in and their opinion (for or against the bombing). You can reach his office by dialing 314-669-9393. Congress reconvenes from their August recess on September 9, so you have at least a week to tell Congressman Clay what you think. We don’t know exactly when a vote will take place, but we presume it will be on the 9th or very soon afterward, considering the enormity of the situation.

If you aren’t located in St. Louis, then use this Congressional directory to find your representatives and to give them a call. Let them know what you think and that you care about the action the U.S takes on this issue.

Sign the Petition at WhiteHouse.gov

Amnesty International doesn’t have any actions specific to the U.S response to Syria, but if you want the White House to know your opinion (especially if that opinion is opposition to a response or intervention), then you can sign the petition at WhiteHouse.gov. This petition says no to war because there are no American interests being threatened in Syria, the country hasn’t attacked the United States or American citizens, and Syria hasn’t attacked U.S armed forces personnel.

You do have to create an account with WhiteHouse.gov to sign this petition. So, if you don’t want to create an account, then here’s an alternative Syria petition you can sign. You don’t have to create an account to sign it.

Keep Up with the Latest News

The alleged chemical attack may be over, but the strife in Syria isn’t. The situation could easily change from day to day, changing the factors involved in the ultimate decision to be made by Congress and by President Obama. Part of forming and voicing our own opinions is knowing what’s going on and what’s at stake for the parties involved. To help with that, here are a few of the latest news articles covering what’s happening in Syria:

U.N Chief says Only Security Council Can Order Airstrikes on Syria – Los Angeles Times

Syria Crisis: Vladimir Putin Under Growing Pressure – The Guardian

The 11 Questions Congress Faces on Syria – Washington Post

Susan Rice Says Administration ‘Quite Confident’ Congress will OK Syria Action – NBC News

Flow of Refugees Out of Syria Passes Two Million – New York Times

Related Links:

Syria: UN Must Get Full Access to Investigate ‘Chemical Weapons’ Claim

The President & Human Rights

Syria One of the Worst Countries for Journalists