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Using Video for Change: WITNESS' model for human rights advocacy

Speaker: Sam Gregory, WITNESS
Chair: Dr Ivan Manokha, Centre for the Study of Human Rights
April 2006


Video advocacy incorporates the tools of modern communication - especially video and the web - into human rights campaigns for change. WITNESS uses the power of video to open the eyes of the world to human rights abuses. By partnering with local organizations around the globe, WITNESS empowers human rights defenders to use video to shine a light on those most affected by human rights violations, and to transform personal stories of abuse into powerful tools of justice. Over the past decade, WITNESS has partnered with groups in more than 60 countries, bringing often unseen images, untold stories and seldom heard voices to the attention of key decision makers, the media, and the general public - catalysing grassroots activism, political engagement, and lasting change. Recent partnerships have included campaigns on juvenile justice in California, truth and reconciliation in Sierra Leone, demobilization of child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and internal displacement in Burma and Uganda.

In this lunchtime talk, Sam Gregory, Program Manager for WITNESS, will use video excerpts to illustrate the lessons WITNESS has learned developing advocacy plans built around visual evidence, testimony and stories, and using video to target domestic and international institutions including governments and decision-makers, UN and regional commissions, the media, an internet-based global public and others. He will also highlight the recently published WITNESS handbook, Video for Change: A Guide for Advocacy and Activism (Pluto Press, 2005), on which he was the lead editor.

Sam Gregory is a human rights activist, advocacy trainer, and video producer, and since 2000 has been the Program Manager at WITNESS. In 2005 he was the lead editor on Video for Change: A Guide for Advocacy and Activism (Pluto Press). He has worked in collaboration with human rights groups in the Philippines, Guatemala, Argentina, Thailand/Burma, and the US, supporting international advocacy and outreach campaigns, and has led a range of international human rights training workshops.

Videos he has produced have been screened at the US Congress, the United Nations and at film festivals worldwide. In 2004 he was a jury member for the IDFA Amnesty International/Doen Award.

Sam currently focuses on WITNESS' training initiatives, and on work in Asia, including extensive campaigning with the grassroots organization Burma Issues, recently including the videos Always on the Run: Internally Displaced People in Karen State (2005), and Entrenched Abuse: Forced Labor in Burma (2004).

He was a Kennedy Scholar at Harvard University, where his Master's focused on international development and media. He has worked as a television researcher/producer in both the US and UK, and for development organizations in Nepal and Vietnam.