Hope, not fear: A new model for communicating human rights
By Thomas Coombes, Amnesty International
In 2017, my own approach to communications has completely changed. Having spent the last few months diving into the latest studies from cause communicators in the USA, and studying audience research about human rights around the world, I have realised that human rights communication needs to be about hope and opportunity, not fear and threat.
Forty years ago today, on 10 December 1977, Amnesty International was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. At the presentation, the Nobel Committee spoke of Amnesty’s work on torture, the death penalty and, above all, its unique role in supporting prisoners of conscience:
“Amnesty has shone a torch of hope into his cell, maybe precisely when its inmate is sunk in the depths of despair and degradation.”
Today, the human rights movement needs to shine that torch of hope on the whole world.
Yet too often the communication of human rights organisations gives more reason to be angry and pessimistic than hopeful.
As Amnesty International posters read, quoting a Chinese proverb, “It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
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.