Taha Bawa, co-founder of Goodwall, the humanitarian and environmental social network that encourages people to actively contribute to society and seek to inspire others, addresses the 6th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see below for full prepared remarks.
My name is Taha, and I’m here to talk to you about waking up the 98%.
So to start off with, technology today is leveraging, optimizing, and magnifying pretty much everything, from cats fighting, to dogs on skateboards — it’s all being done. And I think — and we think — it’s time that technology is used to leverage human rights as well.
[Voiceover playing on video]: They said it was impossible, but we survived. The year 2048: Our oceans are thriving. Our forests are growing. And our people are prospering. But 35 years ago, in 2013, we were in serious trouble. We fueled our growth at the expense of our planet, we consumed, and consumed, and consumed. We violated human rights, and corruption plagued our system. Time was running out. But it was not too late. In 2014, kids started getting involved, and respect was important again. By 2015, organizations became transparent and finally decided to collaborate. By 2016, caring went mainstream, and everyone was getting involved. By 2030, the kids who got involved were running the show and started making sustainable decisions. By 2048, we had changed our world. [End voiceover and video.]
So that’s a little bit about our vision; we believe that there is a way forward by everyone doing a little bit.
So today, I mean — I’m pretty sure like everyone here – I’ve been very inspired and very touched and moved by what’s been said by the heroes and the others who have presented here. And for human rights to move forward, we need these activists to continue making the sacrifices they’ve been making. We need these organizations to continue doing the great work they’ve been doing. We need journalists to continue their relentless pursuit of the truth.
But we also need the other 98 percent to get involved. Those who, like myself, perhaps find it easier to turn away, or to turn off when things get a bit nasty. And that’s of course not so easy; I can tell you that from personal experience. That’s a photo of myself. I had the chance of being pretty much born into the humanitarian sector, so I saw a lot growing up, from tsunami devastation, quite literally in my backyard in Sri Lanka, to refugee camps in Pakistan, Iran, to beggar children in Pakistan as well. And it affected me, and like other children who have the opportunity, I got involved. I debated, I read, I got myself implicated. But as I got older, like many, I started to see this stuff. I started to see numbers and numbers and numbers on the television, and I grew skeptical. I thought that, you know, no matter what I did, I would really not be able to achieve any sort of real change. And perhaps it would be just easier to switch off or to turn away. And there are others like this. I decided to lock myself in a bubble and go pretty much as far away from the humanitarian sector as possible. I ended up working at Christie’s, the art auction house — so pretty much as far away as possible. It doesn’t have to be so.
You know, we’re not necessarily bad people. I like to think that I’m not necessarily a bad person. It’s just that in today’s hyper-information world, we’re bombarded senselessly with useless information. And to be able to communicate and engage with this generation, you really have to speak their language. So it’s important to move past the reports, move past the numbers, which are very hard to understand and grasp, and to communicate in the same language as the people you’re trying to engage with and get them to adhere to your vision. So stories, photos, videos, testimonials, discussions, ways to get involved, volunteer opportunities… I mean, if we just take the heroes in this room, I’m pretty sure, much like Anne Frank inspired millions, they too, if properly communicated, can inspire millions. In any case much more than those long reports that I would do anything but read. So, there is hope on that side.
The other element that’s critical is education. Now, being educated about human rights is essential, if possible from a very young age when we’re growing, and this is what will make it become a fundamental part of our lives and will allow us to then not turn away. And once these people have not turned away, they join the movement. They start speaking up on your behalf, they connect with others, and all of a sudden we have a 98% that is informed and involved. And the silence that was so useful to some is no more.
Now of course, you know, social network isn’t going to solve everything. But a 98% that is informed, and that is involved, and that has a voice makes it a lot harder for those who are thinking of or who are committing human rights violations to do so.
To conclude. A lot has been said, a lot of people have been inspired, and I’m certain a lot will be done following this summit. But to wait another 365 days for the next one would be wrong. The conversation must continue every single day. These inspiring stories must continue to be told, and the 98% must be engaged with opportunities that I’m sure you can find. And one way to do so is on this platform that we’ve built, where the Geneva Human Rights Summit is, and I hope that you guys and others can continue to do good and inspire the 98% that need to get involved. So thank you very much.