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» Advocacy toward the Global-North Travis Warrington

Advocacy toward the Global-North   1 comment

This post’s idea stemmed from a mass email sent from a well-intentioned classmate I had last academic year regarding awareness of contemporary slavery, which was compounded by the recent discussion of the short film Unwatchable as ‘badvocacy’. I will explain the parallels of both below.

The email (mentioned above) gave information about an online survey – Slavery Footprint – created (apparently) by researchers for the U.S. State Department. The survey takes about 5 minutes and asks questions about how many suits you own, to what you eat, to what electronics you have. The site makes note that the smart phone, the t-shirts, the cup of coffee we buy “comes from slaves”, as each question has factual examples of slavery that is happening right now – people that work illegally towards producing products for others under harsh conditions. (After I personally took the survey, apparently I own 20 slaves, and I’m not surprised). Bracket that.

The last few days the short film Unwatchable has been on the chopping block by a few bloggers (here and here), of whom appear to be ill-informed, which scares me. The film, produced by Save the Congo, depicts a true story from the Congo but in terms the global-north would have an easier time fathoming –the story played out by a white family in the UK. The clip shows a group of armed soldiers breaking into an unsuspecting family’s home, holding the mother and father while their oldest daughter is gang raped as the youngest daughter witnesses this from outside and sprints to the woods only to be gunned down by incoming soldiers. Next the father is executed and his member severed only to be forcefully eaten by his wife. The film ends to have views sign a petition to “end these atrocities”.

Both of these advocacy-based media brings up how the global-north is ignorant to where and how their daily products come from, especial smart phones, but in different ways/venues. Don’t get me started on my views of (arguably) the world’s largest advocacy organization – ONE – but each organization needs to find their own niche to advocate for their cause and purpose. Slavery Footprint feels that an online survey to “find out how many slaves you ‘own’” is the best way to make people become more aware of X issue(s). Save the Congo has taken a more drastic approach to utilize film as their venued media to being attention to Y issues(s). What is the harm in these methodologies of advocacy? Absolutely nothing. What is the difference when the organization Charity: Water recreates women walking miles to gather unclean water from a well for her family, but in Central Park? Nothing. No one should pardon their organization’s actions for proving a point, no matter how drastic or nauseous it may make us feel. In my professional and informed opinion, these are just creative tactics to get the global-north to re-think and become more aware of being consumers in a globalized and capitalistic world.

>Photo credit: Video

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Posted September 30, 2011 by Travis Warrington in Conflict

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One response to Advocacy toward the Global-North

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  1. Travis,

    My concerns with the campaign are twofold. First, the connection between rape and conflict minerals is not direct. More importantly, the impact of addressing conflict mineral trade on continuing violence is in dispute. There are reports that show how the loss of jobs can have a negative impact on the miners. I cannot say I am an expert on the subject area to know the exact ramifications of legislation like Dodd-Frank or efforts such as the Save the Congo campaign in the EU, but it is certainly not a clear picture.

    Secondly, it seems that we differ on the premise that advocacy does no harm. I suggest taking a look at this study (http://www.eldis.org/vfile/upload/1/document/0708/DOC1830.pdf) that tracks the impact of advocacy from Live Aid on British people. In short, it have a profound impact on the way that they perceive poverty. So, I definitely agree that having people see things differently is important, but believe that, as the study shows, advocacy can do both harm and good.

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