Symposium on Strength and Solidarity

August 25, 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 and leading members of social movements from around the world for discussions designed to strengthen their collective abilities to advance rights in countries where demand for rights are at risk and where rights violations are plentiful.

The Symposium built a networked structure of support for front-line activists using the language and inheritance of human rights to challenge oppressive power. In addition to the provision of training on internal management, fundraising, and good governance, the Symposium provided an opportunity to examine these topics and others exclusively from the perspective of human rights organizations. The discussions delved 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 vocabularies in which they understand and advocate for rights in their work.  The second and third days were devoted to questions of organizational strength and integrity, drawing on case studies that present new models to promote organizational vitality while reflecting on the individual experience of participants.

The remaining days were reserved for discussions examining the state of paradox that characterizes the human rights field, reflecting on sources of weaknesses and exclusion exemplified in human rights movements. The Symposium ended with participants returning to the questions of solidarity and the construction of structures and networks that can support individuals who are directly confronting and challenging abuses of power as violations of rights.