On September 18th, Atlas hosted an in-personal event at the Tabernacle, Notting Hill. In this full-day event, we gathered activists on the forefront of democracy struggles to talk about the threats that authoritarianism poses in places where rights were cracked down upon, but also in democratic countries, and celebrated the power and resilience of freedom fighters across the world. We also made a pretty big campaign announcement.
At the same time, to inspire our reflection, we held a protest art exhibition with pieces from Hong Kong, Myanmar, Thailand, Belarus, Sudan and Afghanistan. Special thanks to Artvocate, May James, Alessio Mamo, and Sara Shoghi for joining us at the exhibition.
Finally, we held a writing letter stand for attendees to write a letter to a freedom fighter in Hong Kong that we will send.
🎙️ Opening: The hope in the future of Democracy - Colombe Cahen-Salvador
Our co-founder, Colombe Cahen-Salvador, opened the Democracy Celebration by guiding us through the main takeaways of the previous days and what it means for the future of democracy. She talked about how to use hope as a tool for change.
🎙️ Panel Discussion: “Authoritarian threat abroad: how it impacts democracy at home”
- Vladimir Ashurkov, Executive Director of Alexei Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation
- Finn Lau, Hong Kong activist
- Moderator: Colombe Cahen-Salvador, co-founder of Atlas
Here are some of the main takeaways:
- A best practice from Hong Kong is the establishment of a “yellow economic circle'': pro-democracy businesses. Right now, working on gathering businesses that support the democratic movement together outside of Hong Kong so that more resources could be channeled to support the HK, to lay the foundation for the next uprising.
- Solidarity is very important, but most importantly democracies must strengthen their own institutions. In doing so, they set good examples for authoritarian countries.
Authoritarianism doesn’t stop within the country: both China and Russia are using their economic policies to crack down on freedom abroad (see belt & road initiative & Russian dirty money)
🎙️ Campaign announcement: it’s time for a global digital state - Andrea Venzon
Our co-founder Andrea Venzon took the stage to announce the main takeaway of the Freedom Marathon: Atlas will work to create a Digital State, the first of its kind. At Atlas in fact, we advocate for the creation of a global governance infrastructure that could give a voice to people worldwide, overcome national interests, and ensure that humanity can tackle global challenges and harness global opportunities. While international organizations like the United Nations already try to advance a global agenda, they are often predated by national interests of major powers and their allies (and as such cannot do anything on major humanitarian crisis and clampdowns on people’s rights) and are highly undemocratic: there is no alley for citizens to influence their work.
Atlas intends to create the first Digital State in the history of humankind. Borderless in nature, people from all over the world will be able to “apply for citizenship” and partake in the democratic governance of this state.
The creation of such a venture will have at least three very concrete aims:
- Showcasing to the world that a transnational state is needed because people want to be connected, work together, and overcome the trivial differences that separate us through a truly democratic, global effort
- Have a direct impact, as the digital state will perform state-level services and will work to protect democracy, worldwide
- International lobbying as if the state reaches a significant size it will be able to look eye-to-eye other countries
🎙️ Panel Discussion: “When it's David vs Goliath, how can freedom struggles succeed?
- Rajat Khosla, Senior Director, Research, Advocacy and Policy, Amnesty International
- Jacqueline San, spokesperson of Burma's opposition National Unity Government (NUG) campaign UK
- Franz Böhm, documentary director of "Dear Future Children"
- Moderator: Andrea Venzon, co-founder of Atlas
In the afternoon, we screened the award-winning documentary “Dear Future Children” which follows three young female activists in Hong Kong, Chile, and Uganda and documents their struggles to fight for democracy, social justice and climate justice.
Here are some of the main takeaways:
- Make good use of technology, get involved, activists are learning tactics from each other, from HK to Burma
- Pay special attention to media reporting about freedom struggles
- Fear and indifference are the biggest weapons of authoritarian regimes.
- We have a tendency to target a single country and a single struggle. But we can only succeed if we connect the struggles together and challenge them collectively. And we have to start doing it now. If it’s not climate if it’s not human rights, What are we waiting for?
- It’s extremely difficult to get the documentary covering conflict outside the EU to be distributed in the UK and EU. There are just not enough people interested in these films - when you buy a film, you make a conscious choice of what we support.
All the pictures used in this post are from Wanda Proft.