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Reflections on SpeakOut! 2013

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SpeakOut! is a training event designed to bring together young activists and UNPO Members from a wide range of nations and backgrounds with an interest in human rights, in order to learn and develop a working knowledge of human rights advocacy.

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Participants engage in a negotiation exercise.

 

The goal of SpeakOut! is to successfully train youth about human rights advocacy, and more specifically, how to participate in the international arena as an NGO. The UNPO designed the literature and study materials, which allows participants to re-teach the skills they learned at the training event. The subjects covered during this three-day training included human rights advocacy, United Nations bodies, grassroots funding, negotiation strategies, and effective lobbying practices.

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This year’s SpeakOut! training took place at Webster University in Leiden, the Netherlands. Over 30 participants joined UNPO for the event from different indigenous groups and unrecognized nations, including the Khmer Krom and the Ahwazi.  We welcomed participants from our Member nations but were also pleased to have students and other professionals attend the event as well.

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On the first day, we started with an icebreaking activity that helped the UNPO staff and participants get acquainted with one another. We then broke into a lecture by UNPO Program Coordinator Pierre Hegay on the human rights mechanisms within the UN, which provided information on the main treaty bodies and the Universal Periodic Review mechanism. After lunch, the group traveled to Leidschendam for a presentation on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is currently investigating the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and several members of his party. This is only one of several tribunals being carried out on an international level in The Hague. This field trip was especially interesting to participants who represent indigenous or minority people, as it gave insight into the inner workings of international justice tribunals.

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SpeakOut! Participants and staff in front of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon

 

On the second day, the representative of the European Association of History Educators (Euroclio), Steven Stegers, conducted a workshop about writing a concept note. During this workshop, the participants had to examine existing concept notes that were being reviewed to receive monetary grants. After a brief break, the participants who were attending on behalf of a Member organization were given the opportunity to present a piece about the current situation in their region. This proved to be a very informative session for our student participants, as they had the opportunity to learn about unrepresented minorities throughout the world. We listened to presentations from the Khmer Krom, Ahwazi, Aceh, the West Papua, and Kashmir.

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Participants engaging in a negotiation exercise.

 

Afterwards, a workshop was conducted on negotiation strategies pursuant to a lecture on the same subject.  The final presentation of the day was presented by Jochem de Groot, from the D66 Liberal Party on Human Rights online and internet freedom. This was a particularly informative lecture which taught participants the importance of the internet, specifically in the context of human rights. 

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Jochem de Groot during his presentation on interned freedom and human rights.

 

On the third and final day, the participants listened to a lecture on communication led by the UNPO staff. The second workshop focused on website creation and management by UNPO Treasurer Jeroen Zandberg. The final workshop of SpeakOut 2013 focused on policy advocacy tactics and was led by the United Network of Young Peacebuilders (UNOY). Their representative, Ms. Matilda Flemming, presented on the organization and conducted a workshop that simulated a meeting between policymakers and advocates. This workshop showed the participants which advocacy tactics they can employ in order to achieve their goals within an organization.

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Jeroen Zandberg during his presentation on website creation and management.

 

SpeakOut! included a series of interactive lectures and workshops, including round table discussions and networking exercises, which created an opportunity to exchange their personal and professional experiences, thus strengthening each attendees’ knowledge on human rights, advocacy skills, and networking skills. During this three-day event, participants got to meet new people and partake in simulations that were both entertaining and informative. The UNPO looks forward to planning next year’s SpeakOut! training session and welcomes Member nations and interested youth to join us.

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SpeakOut! participants enjoying the city of Leiden at the end of the training.

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