Thursday, February 01, 2007

A reputation too important to lose

AI Secretary General Irene Khan's blog from the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos made interesting reading. Just as you would expect she quite rightly urged world leaders to live up to the promise of human rights. She pondered whether this year's forum was "more cosmetic than substantive" and considered how NGOs like AI seemed to be being sidelined or at least reserved for worthy post-prandial speeches - a worrying observation at a time when the world faces enormous human rights challenges. But there was good news too: she noted how she was recognised in a juice bar by a leading politician and even managed to grab a cappuccino with the Pakistan PM without an apppointment and had a hard talk about human rights.

If, as she says, NGOs are being sidelined it looks as if AI still has some sway and that's because over the years the organisation Ms Khan heads has built up an enviable reputation for morality and championing human rights. If this reputation is ruined - as may well be the case if AI decides to advocate abortion, Ms Khan may find it becoming even more difficult to grab a coffee with world leaders.

One of the latest AI campaigns is Human Rights for All - NO EXCEPTIONS....a sentiment I think all AI supporters would endorse. Even before AI takes a decision about whether or not to promote abortion as a human right in Mexico in August, many find these campaigns a bitter irony. If it is adopted then there is surely an argument that AI is in fact prepared to make exceptions and if AI can do it, how can it object if other organisations, individuals or countries decide to make their own exceptions to who have human rights? It's credibility will have gone and Ms Khan may find herself sitting all alone in the coffee shop of next year's forum.

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