Armed with pens, keyboards and a passion for human rights

Salil Shetty, Secretary General, new year, message

© Matt Writtle

A New Year’s message to activists from Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General

As a new year begins, I’d like to celebrate some of the things we achieved together in 2013.

We are still counting the tweets, good old-fashioned letters, SMS messages and petition signatures, but it is already clear that hundreds of thousands of people in up to 80 countries took part in our biggest global campaign event, Write for Rights, in December.

Armed with pens and keyboards, we challenged the authorities to release prisoners of conscience, tell the truth and set injustices right.

Time will tell what impact our actions will have. The wheels in the machinery of power can turn slowly. But it’s important to remember that as soon as you send that email, that fax, that letter, it becomes part of something much bigger. When hundreds of messages start arriving at a prison , those in charge know we are watching them. And the person inside that cell knows that while they wait for the door to open, we wait with them.

The release of Yorm Bopha in November  – imprisoned in Cambodia for defending her community’s housing rights – was a huge encouragement for everyone who had appealed on her behalf. Bopha herself thanked Amnesty’s supporters directly for campaigning alongside her. Our work goes on to make sure her sentence is quashed.

Activism can be a long game. The new Arms Trade Treaty agreed by world leaders last April illustrates this. It took 20 years of hard work  and concerted action by the entire Amnesty movement and our key partners to get there. But we did it.  Since then, 115 countries have signed up to it and more will follow . Our work to make sure the treaty creates real change in people’s lives has already started.

As 2014 begins, many challenges lie ahead. Human rights continue to be violated on a massive scale, from Syria  to the Central African Republic . From bearing witness by documenting and mapping violations, to campaigning and lobbying for change, we are clear that injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. There will be truth and justice.

Thank you for being a part of Amnesty International – together, we are making a significant difference.