Here's One Easy Way You Can Help Advance Human Rights

April 5th 2015

Nev Schulman

A few months ago in my article, Here’s How We Win the Fight Against Hatred, I challenged people to start using social media for peace. A nice idea, but honestly, I barely knew what that meant, and I haven't done much myself since posting that piece on ATTN:. I still want to be a part of a positive change. I know I want to help make the world a better place, but often times I feel powerless. I’m at a loss for what to do.

Even if I come up with a good idea that supports freedom of speech or encourages everyone to be more open minded and supportive of each other, it’s not a one size fits all sort of thing. Our interests and beliefs likely differ plus while I might feel comfortable writing an article or posting a video expressing my feelings, you may not like writing or you could be camera shy. 

Luckily, a new website called Movements.org wants to help advance human rights by connecting your unique skill sets with an activist somewhere in the world who desperately needs it. All you need is an email address. Seriously, there is no application process or anything. It took me all of two minutes to sign up and start browsing opportunities.

You may be reading this and thinking, I don’t have anything viable to contribute to international human rights. WRONG! You just don’t realize how much you can help because you never knew what people really needed. Browsing through the site, it’s amazing to see the variety of goals that have been accomplished already: a comedian performed a satire of a dictator, a Julliard musician dedicated a song to a political prisoner, a Farsi-speaker translated an application for political asylum, and a student in a campus tech group helped North Korean defectors circumvent internet censorship.

Now, I’m hoping that all of you will now want to get involved, but a cynic might ask why. After all, you pay taxes to live in America and are doing your part. So if a Bengali blogger goes to jail, it doesn’t affect your ability to drink Starbucks or binge watch House of Cards Season 3. Right?

Also wrong! Our safety and stability here in America is directly linked to the status of human rights in other countries. In an immediate, short-term sense, I ask you to remember this year’s Sony hack. Basically, North Korea attacked an American corporation for exercising their right to free speech in the film “The Interview.” This is really only the tip of the iceberg. In the long term, interacting with governments that deny fundamental human rights to their citizens is like having a playdate with a sociopath. It’s only a matter of time before things get so atrocious that people need to intervene. As David Keyes, the executive director of the non-profit Advancing Human Rights, explains, “How people treat their dissidents, liberals, bloggers and poets is a great indicator of how they act globally. The only long term guarantor of peace and stability is to open closed societies.” 

The extra bonus is that while helping activists is an inspiring thing to do with your time, it can also be used as an amazing forum to connect with people you would never have otherwise met. Specifically, through a platform like Movements.org, you gain access to leading creatives, lawyers, journalists, and policymakers, who are generally tough to reach.

I'd like to end this article by making a special overture to students. There’s a lot that can be done on campuses despite how busy you are with school work. Use platforms like Movements.org or other social activism sites to create a photography exhibit about a war-torn country, translate a human rights activist’s experience to the Western world or coordinate a campus-wide lecture. You are not powerless.