Kenneth Roth
Executive Director, Human Rights Watch
02:13

Re: How is technology changing the campaign for human rights?

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Rapid dissemination of information is changing the human rights world.

Kenneth Roth

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch since 1993, has investigated human rights abuses around the globe, with special expertise on issues of justice and accountability for atrocities committed in the quest for peace; military conduct in war under the requirements of international humanitarian law; counterterrorism policy including resort to torture and arbitrary detention; the human rights policies of the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations; and the human rights responsibilities of multinational businesses. Mr. Roth has published more than 100 articles and chapters on a range of human rights topics. Before joining HRW as deputy director in 1987, Mr. Roth was a federal prosecutor for both the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York and the Iran-Contra investigation in Washington. He is a graduate of Yale Law School and Brown University.

Transcript
Well probably the . . . the most dramatic effect that technology has had on the human rights movement is making it easier for us to disseminate our information around the world. If you think about it, traditionally, saying going back 20 years, Human Rights Watch would issue a report, and we had to physically deliver that report to people. We had to, you know, mail it. I’m not even sure if there was Fed Ex at that time, but there was some version of that. But you know as quickly as you could, you would courier the report to journalists wherever they would be. And it would be a complicated endeavor very limited by expense and just physical capacity. Today by contrast, we keep e-mail lists. There’s almost no cost involved. And we can disseminate, you know, in electronic form, our findings instantaneously to thousands and thousands of people. In fact, just the people who sign up for our list serves to receive these reports are in the realm of 50,000 for any given report. So it’s . . . You know it’s quick, rapid dissemination. Now the news cycle has adjusted to that. And so whereas, you know, 20 years ago it may have been sufficient for us to put a report out on an event two, three months down the road; today we’ve gotta respond to it within a news cycle. And so that’s forced us to speed up. But it’s possible to operate at that speed because we can use e-mail to communicate with our colleagues in the field; to make sure that we’ve brought in the perspective of Brussels, or Jakarta, or Buenos Aires or whatever matters and merge it all together in the course of kind of a quick e-mail back and forth and then put out our response. And so that . . . that speed is a challenge, but it’s also very much a new capacity. And . . . and in the process, it’s allowed us to be more global – global in the sense of collecting the information more easily from around the world; global in terms of being able to build partnerships around the world; and global in terms of being able to more readily disseminate that information to people who matter.

Recorded on: 8/14/07


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