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ASU partners with Amnesty International on human rights course

Class will help mobilize activists for local impact in the Middle East and northern Africa

April 01, 2021

Arizona State University, in partnership with Amnesty International, has created a new advocacy course that’s being offered to the human rights organization's staff in the Middle East and northern Africa who are eager to help their communities.

The online course, offered in Arabic, is the first outcome of a partnership created in 2019 among the Thunderbird School of Global Management at ASU, ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, and Amnesty International.

Sanjeev Khagram, director general and dean of Thunderbird, entered into the partnership in 2019 with Kumi Naidoo, who was then the secretary general of Amnesty International. Now, Naidoo is a professor of practice at Thunderbird and O’Connor.

“This collaboration with Amnesty is an incredible opportunity for Thunderbird, our incredible law school and ASU, Khagram said.

"This is how we achieve our quest to advance global inclusion, innovation and impact at scale."

The goal of the course is for Amnesty International to harness the passion of changemakers by providing advocacy training, according to Art Hinshaw, a clinical professor of law, the John J. Bouma Fellow in Alternative Dispute Resolution and the founding director of the Lodestar Dispute Resolution Center in the law school. He was part of the team that created the content for the 10-module class.

“Amnesty International has been working on human rights for a long time and they take on big causes. They work on very long-term projects, like how to free this political prisoner,” he said.

“For example, Nelson Mandela was in prison for 27 years. So you can imagine that when you have an energized population of young adults, they can run out of steam because they are not seeing any results for their work.

“Amnesty International wanted to open a new way to participate in the organization for people with a lot of energy and interest that could get results, and that is working on more local issues.”

The course learners will focus on day-to-day issues that affect a wide swath of people, Hinshaw said.

“Amnesty International saw this as a vey important way to keep their teams engaged while impacting broad groups of people,” he said.

“The course covers things like, what is advocacy? How to tell stories. How to deal with opposition. How do you reach the decision-makers?

“If you’re talking about building an alliance, how do you do that?”

As a legal expert, Hinshaw says it’s important for activists to communicate with confidence by preparing and practicing.

“You have to know the subject matter really well,” he said. “If someone says, ‘There’s a chart on page 10,’ you need to know about that chart without looking.”

A team from Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa division translated Hinshaw’s content and made it culturally relevant for the audience.

“They know the people in the region and how to communicate with their audience,” he said.

Diana Bowman, professor of law and associate dean for international engagement in the law school, said that developing the course was a chance for the highly regarded Lodestar Dispute Resolution Center to take its programming to an international level.

“We have phenomenal experts at ASU Law, which has been recognized locally and nationally, but if we want to have an impact we need to think beyond our boundaries, whether that’s improving the quality of life or helping institutions to think about governance or emerging technologies,” she said.

“This was also a great opportunity for Art and ASU Law to engage beyond the traditional legal institutions.”

Bowman said that students now can learn from leading activist experts at ASU.

“That opens up so many opportunities for our students to engage with people who are agenda-setting on the world stage.”

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