Activism: Human Rights Chic

By Manson, Katrina; Knight, James | New Statesman (1996), September 11, 2006 | Go to article overview

Activism: Human Rights Chic


Manson, Katrina, Knight, James, New Statesman (1996)


With so many beautiful young things in a room you would expect at least canapes, champagne and a film premiere. But no, the 65 people gathered at Chelsea Cloisters in South Kensington (just around the corner from the Bibendum Oyster Bar and Joseph, darling) had international justice on their minds.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), the organisation that records abuses and lobbies for lasting change worldwide, was on a recruitment drive among the brightest and the best London can offer. Lawyers, writers, financiers, actors, diplomats and designers were there to hear how they could help as London catches up with Los Angeles, New York and Toronto, which all have HRW branches for young advocates.

"The idea is to get more young people involved, to encourage debate and take an interest in the broader issues of international justice and human rights," says Daniel Hahn, a volunteer on the steering committee of HRW's London network. "There was a really lovely buzz at the launch, with people asking, 'What can I do?' They are all interested in shaping something that might make a difference."

These days activism can be more subtle than sit-ins, placards and letter-writing, and London's bright young things are as valuable for their CVs and contacts books as for their raw commitment. HRW wants their skills, whether they are designers who can lay out a pamphlet or business executives who can lobby their companies.

Another steering committee member is the actor Christian Coulson, 27, who among other things played the young Lord Voldemort in the second Harry Potter film. …

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