Tragically, world institutions and organizations have failed to properly address authoritarianism. Western governments sometimes protest human rights violations in countries such as Russia, Iran, and North Korea — but routinely ignore them in places such as China and Saudi Arabia, in favor of upholding trade deals and security agreements, according to Garry Kasparov, chairman of the New York-based Human Rights Foundation, and Thor Halvorssen, the foundation’s president and chief executive.
The noble struggle against tyranny has fallen upon individual activists and dissidents living under authoritarian rule or working from exile, they write for The Washington Post:
Citizen journalists Abdalaziz Alhamza and Meron Estefanos found that few people in peaceful, free countries were interested in reporting on Syria and Eritrea, so they took it upon themselves to do so, despite the enormous danger this put them in. Hyeonseo Lee defected from North Korea to find that victims of sex trafficking in China are often abandoned and ignored, so she started pressuring the Chinese government herself. When Rosa María Payá’s father, Cuban democracy leader Oswaldo Payá, died in mysterious circumstances in 2012, it fell to her to demand a formal investigation and fair treatment for dissidents in Cuba.
Crafting an effective human rights policy is not easy, but the United States still has an abundant toolkit analyst, argues Will Inboden, Executive Director of the William P. Clements, Jr. Center for History, Strategy, and Statecraft at the University of Texas-Austin.
“Effective measures can include meeting with dissidents, publicizing human rights abuses in speeches and public diplomacy efforts, restoring and increasing funding to freedom activists, providing overt and covert support for access to freedom of information, conducting training programs for democratic reformers, pursuing actions in multilateral fora, and targeted economic sanctions,” he writes for Foreign Policy.
“If authoritarianism and dictatorship are to be properly challenged such dissidents need funding, strategic advice, technical training, attention and solidarity,” Kasparov and Halvorssen add. “To turn the tide against repression, people across all industries need to join the movement. Artists, entrepreneurs, technologists, investors, diplomats, students — no matter who you are, you can reach out to a civil society organization at risk and ask how you can help by using your knowledge, resources or skills.” RTWT