Good news! This year’s Scottish International Storytelling Festival 2023 will explore and celebrate human rights.
It’s the world’s biggest storytelling festival, with over 250 events from professionals worldwide. This year, to mark the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), creatives will share perspectives and practices that enable people around the world to enjoy freedom, equality and dignity.
We know that myriad factors threaten human rights—political and economic oppression, war and environmental degradation; censorship, gender inequality, ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious prejudice.
We know less about how communities are resisting these threats. There is tremendous progress to celebrate and share: successful efforts to reverse biodiversity loss, transform cultural relations, and build respect for expression in all its forms.
We need information about these ‘success stories’ to address threats to freedom globally. More importantly though, we need motivation to galvanize a global movement for human rights over the next 75 years. Here’s where storytellers make the difference: they don’t just share knowledge; they create, in real time, a story of people and places changed. It’s electrifying! A skilled storyteller transforms space and engages all the senses to change the way we think, feel and act. This is the type of communication we need to energize the human rights vision established in 1948.
It’s a fitting tribute to Eleanor Roosevelt’s memory. For two years, I was ‘her neighbour,’ residing next to her former home on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Every time I walked past her door, I thought of the safer and freer world she helped to create, and how I can help to do the same – with courage, with joy, and while appreciating beauty.
Eleanor was clear that courage helps our efforts for a better world, that hope increases our success, and that appreciation of beauty is part of a life well-lived. Even as we recognize the immense troubles in the world, we must “light a candle, instead of cursing the darkness.”
I thought about what this meant for my work at the UN, and decided to build a case for investment in peace and human rights by highlighting proven solutions to poverty and conflict – not only discussing the scale and impact of those challenges. And so I used data collection and analysis techniques to identify success – things to celebrate, rather than lament. Lights in the darkness.
A passionate supporter of artists, Eleanor Roosevelt regarded art as critical for progress on human rights. Our human rights-focused Scottish International Storytelling Festival is, I hope, a fitting tribute to her legacy.