On the 16th of November we piloted the first Amnesty Alternative Conference. The idea was to give everyone the opportunity to experience some of what happened in the previous week’s National Student Conference. Sponsored by Teach First, the Alternative Conference opened with an interactive skills session focused on effective communication techniques. Exeter’s Teach First Graduate Recruitment Officer James Baxani* led an engaging session, a highlights being a simulation of Radio 4’s ‘just a minute’.
The remainder of the afternoon revolved around the five main areas focused on the National Student conference: Death penalty, Women’s Rights, Control Arms, Corporate Responsibility and the Arab Spring. Society President, Katherine Clissold, presented Amnesty’s next steps in the ongoing campaign against the Death Penalty. She emphasised how we must see the recent execution of Troy Davis must act as a motor to keep up the broader campaign, so that his voice and message continue to be heard. Collectively we devised possible follow-up ideas and ways that we can keep momentum up for the campaign.
Elizabeth Ackerley, Vice-President, then spoke about Women’s rights in Afghanistan highlighting Amnesty’s response to criticisms of imposing western values on Islamic societies. She quizzed us on our knowledge of women’s rights in the region, and explained Amnesty’s approach to the situation. Thirdly, Amnesty’s next steps in the Control Arms Campaign were introduced by Outreach Officer, Cordelia Wyche. Intensity on the campaign mounts we approach the 2012 deadline for the completion of the negotiations between 152 governments on development of an Arms Trade Treaty.
Following on, I presented the Corporate Responsibility campaign focussing the Niger Delta. Readers may remember the ‘Shell Hell’ campaign held in 2009 (which involved much white boiler suit wearing on campus and around town). This part of the conference updated members on Amnesty’s progress on the issue. This is a positive example of the results of effective campaigning as Shell has been called to account in a court case presented by London-based Law firm Leigh Day and Co.!
Campaigns Officer James Bartholomeusz concluded the Alternative Conference with a session focused on the next steps in the Arab Springs campaign. He highlighted both the direction of the campaign at national level and the plans for the 7th of December demonstration that Campaign Sub-Committee have been planning for us to implement on campus.
Other exciting news to report back from the National Student Conference was Katherine’s election onto this year’s Student Action Network Committee (STAN). Elected each year, STAN is a body of six Amnesty student activists from around the country which works to support Amnesty members and organise national events. It’s awesome to have our President on the committee this year, massive congratulations Katherine!