Samantha Power Praises “Stop Kony”-Style Activism In First Speech As U.N. Ambassador

Samantha Power US Ambassador to The United Nations
Samantha Power
US Ambassador to The United Nations

WASHINGTON — Samantha Power will praise online human rights activism such as last year’s “Stop Kony” campaign in her first speech as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations on Saturday.

Power is scheduled to speak to the Fourth Estate Leadership Summit, an event in Los Angeles sponsored by Invisible Children, the rights group whose campaign to stop Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony went viral last year and whose co-founder was hospitalized after a notorious public breakdown.

“Invisible Children doesn’t just lobby policymakers to go after the LRA, it designs fliers that tell LRA fighters how they might defect, and it distributes them – more than 400,000 so far – into LRA-affected areas in DRC and the Central African Republic,” Power will say, according to prepared remarks. “It has also built six locally-run FM radio stations in areas of high LRA activity. These stations now reach an audience covering more than 29,000 square miles.”

And if you’ve ever doubted your activism matters, just think that the Kony video you made go viral, was sent by high school kids in Massachusetts to their Senator who joined with his colleagues to write a law that President Obama signed to create a rewards program to bring Kony and his thugs to justice. And a few months ago that Senator from Massachusetts, now Secretary of State John Kerry, announced that thanks to that law – thanks to you – the State Department was offering the first cash rewards to bring LRA killers to justice.

This new kind of activism is visible so many places, on so many of today’s most critical issues. An army of citizen activists police the conduct of the recent Kenyan elections, using the tools of the web to monitor hate speech and document fraud in an effort to prevent a repeat of significant violence. In a region – the Arab world – that barely knew democracy as recently as three years ago, we see tens of millions of people moving governments, and, at times, removing them, driven by that universal desire to have their voices heard. At a time of economic uncertainty, we see tens of thousands taking to the streets in Russia and beyond, because they are no longer willing to turn a blind eye to corruption or to accept the growing inequalities in their own societies.

In the speech, Power, whose first career was as a journalist covering human rights atrocities in Bosnia, will acknowledge the limitations of the Stop Kony model.

“But this new generation understands that the video is not what matters; the number of twitter followers is not what matters,” Power will say. “These are just means to an end; indeed Invisible Children the organization is a means to an end. What matters is the real world scoreboard.”

Power’s speech will also feature a tribute to Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who was shot by the Taliban and who has become a global icon of women’s rights in the developing world. Power will describe Yousafzai’s name as a “name that will be forever synonymous with dignity and bravery,” according to the remarks.

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