Amnesty chief: Trump factor helping human rights campaigns

Originally published October 5, 2018 at 10:20 am Updated October 5, 2018 at 12:55 pm

By DEREK GATOPOULOS and THEODORA TONGAS

The Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The leader of Amnesty International said human rights movements are being galvanized globally by the actions of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Kumi Naidoo, who took over as Amnesty’s secretary general last month, told The Associated Press in an interview that Trump administration policies have fueled campaigns on climate change, women’s equality and other issues that predated Trump’s presidency.

The South African-born Naidoo, who formerly headed environmental group Greenpeace, identified climate change and authoritarian governments — what he described as a “slide toward fascism” — as major threats to human rights and wellbeing globally.

“I would say, quite bluntly, is that most of our political and business leadership around the world is suffering from a very bad case of cognitive dissonance, by which I mean a denial of reality,” he said.

At the same time, Naidoo said he thinks the oversized attention the U.S. president attracts also helps moderate Trump’s disorienting influence.

“If you look at Donald Trump, for example, he essentially has been the biggest mobilizer of the climate movement, the women’s movement, (and) people of color,” Naidoo said.

Trump, for example, has opposed U.S. participation in a landmark climate agreement. And his treatment of women also motivated his critics to organize worldwide demonstrations focus on women’s rights right after he took office.

“The optimism for me is that young people, I’ve never seen the level of young people being mobilized around the world,” Naidoo said. “I’ve never seen the level of women being mobilized around the world.”

Naidoo was in Greece to visit a severely overcrowded refugee camp on the island of Lesbos. He called on Greece and the European Union to back an emergency evacuation of the site before winter over concerns that conditions there are unsafe.

His trip coincided with the release of a 44-page Amnesty report on hardships facing female refugees in Greece.