Christopher Stone - Symposium on Strength and Solidarity for Human Rights

August 29, 2019

The inaugural Symposium on Strength and Solidarity was a five-day, residential program from August 25 - 29, organized by Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia Global Centers | Amman.

Organized advocacy will always be necessary to advance and secure rights, but the need for strong organizations and solidarity among them is especially important in today’s increasingly hostile environment.  The Symposium is the centerpiece of a new, practical program to fortify human rights organizations in this work: both those on the front lines of struggles for rights and those providing national, regional, and worldwide support to front-line advocates.

The Symposium brought together 25 leaders of human rights organizations from around the world for discussions designed to strengthen our collective abilities to advance rights over the next decade with the aim of building a new, networked structure of support for front-line activists anywhere in the world using the language and inheritance of human rights to challenge oppressive power. While there are many sources of training on internal management, fundraising, and good governance, the Symposium provides an opportunity to examine these topics and others exclusively from the perspective of human rights organizations. In addition, the Symposium delves deeply into practical questions of solidarity: what is it, how do we practice it, and how do we call on solidarity from others? 

The Symposium started with participants sharing how they currently use the language of rights in their work, followed by an introduction on solidarity.  The second and third days were devoted to questions of organizational strength and integrity, drawing on case studies developed specifically for the Symposium as well as on the experience of participants.

The fourth day was reserved for discussions of specialized topics and issues not programmed in advance, and the fifth and final day, participants return to the questions of solidarity and the construction of structures and networks that can support people who are directly confronting and challenging abuses of power as violations of rights.