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Season 5 Episode 4 – The Sudanese Revolution: Women’s Rights and the Power of Social Media

For our first episode of 2021 we return to the 2018-19 Sudanese Revolution that overthrew Omar al-Bashir and his National Congress Party. Joined by Dinan Alasad and Aida Abbashar, the conversation highlights the course of the revolution, the importance of international attention and the mobilising and uprising of Sudan’s youth. Our guests identify both the power of social media movements such as #BlueForSudan and #BlueForMattar as well as reminding us that, in areas like women’s rights, the story is far from complete. 

Both Aida and Dinan have devoted huge amounts of time to both educating themselves on the history and politics of their home country and raising awareness of issues in Sudan that persist to this day. They herald the removal of Omar al-Bashir in April 2019 as a monumental event in Sudanese history that can represent a watershed moment for the nation. In particular, they seek to highlight the role of young Sudanese citizens who refused to accept the growing apathy of older generations and strove to bring about meaningful change. It is to this resilience that they attribute the success of the revolution.  

“…everything I do is driven by my passion for Sudanese politics”

Dinan Alasad

Beginning outside Khartoum, the revolution gained momentum in 2018 as the inequalities between life in the capital and the rest of Sudan became impossible to ignore. Dinan speaks of the lack of funding for schools resulting in children having to get on boats, with many drowning in the waters of the Nile as they tried to access their education. With the tripling of the price of bread and doubling of the price of school meals towards the end of 2018, marches and protests flared up across the country. The National Congress Party (NCP) headquarters were set alight in Atbara and Dongola and protestors began to converge on Khartoum. 

Our guests emphasise the role social media, in particular Twitter and WhatsApp, played both in the early days of the revolution and throughout its enactment. WhatsApp groups emerged in many Sudanese neighbourhoods, used both for the organising of marches and instances of civil disobedience as well as the communicating of military positions and actions. Dinan also highlights how, when marches were planned, those more affluent members of the neighbourhood would ensure arrangements were made to cover the losses daily-wage workers would incur. Through these communities the revolution could maintain its momentum and mobilise on a large scale. Indeed, as Aida notes, even during the internet blackout imposed upon Sudan by the al-Bashir regime, connections could not be severed, with those involved in the revolution able to use the existing connections they had made on WhatsApp and other social media platforms. 

Social media remained critical in the mobilising and maintaining of support amongst the Sudanese diaspora. Our guests discuss with Muna how Twitter hashtags like #BlueForSudan and #BlueForMattar both helped to decrease the impact of the internet blackout in Sudan, perpetuating the momentum of the movement from outside the country and brought further pressure to bear on the al-Bashir regime. Both Aida and Dinan agree the power of online activism was an undeniable factor in the revolutionary events, engaging wider audiences, acting as a highly effective organisational tool and bringing first-hand experiences and stories to the fore that would otherwise have gone unheard. 

“We’re living in a reality where 30 years of violent, oppressive rule has to be uprooted”

Aida Abbashar

Nevertheless, whilst the achievements of the revolution are to be celebrated, we are reminded that in light of the current transitional government now is no time for complacency. Despite their heavy involvement in the revolution itself, both Aida and Dinan agree that women are noticeably underrepresented in the current transitional government. Such links tightly to the institutionalised and ingrained misogyny of Sudanese society, exacerbated by the previous regime. Although our guests do mention improvements in the treatment of Sudanese women – naming the protection now granted to tea ladies in the Sudanese Professional Association as one example – work is still to be done. Under al-Bashir, police were empowered to launch misogynistic campaigns across the country, challenging, arresting and beating women who they deemed to be dressed inappropriately. For Sudan to progress, Aida believes a lot of unlearning must commence, with Sudanese men and women alike challenging the strictures of Sharia law and the coercive and misogynistic policies under which they lived for so long. The comradery cultivated during the revolution must be a tool for further change in Sudan. 

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We Need to Talk: The Climate Crisis with Daze Aghaji

The topic of conversation this week is the ongoing climate crisis and our urgent need to act. We are joined by the remarkable Daze Aghaji, a university student and high-profile climate justice activist who has fought to combat the climate emergency at an international level. The climate crisis has the potential to impact all aspects of our lives and Daze urges us to tackle the issue, not just environmental grounds, but on social and cultural levels as well.

Raised in a one-bedroom flat in Tottenham, London, Daze has come from humble beginnings. When her mother started her own restaurant and saw success, she was given the opportunity to go to boarding school in the English countryside, where she says she loved being amongst nature. On returning to London, the levels of air pollution in the UK’s capital caused her to suffer from asthma and skin conditions; her love of the countryside began to transform into a desire to fight for its survival. Extensive work in Extinction Rebellion alongside political activism, becoming the youngest ever person to run for a seat in the European Parliament in 2019, are testimony to this desire to provoke real change and our episode encompasses numerous ways in which the spirit of this activism can be replicated. 

One area where meaningful change can take place to better protect our planet is in the fashion industry. Fast fashion is an established and growing problem in our world, with the increased usage of cheaply made garments designed to be thrown away after a number of wears placing a considerable strain on our planet and natural resources. To have individuals disposing of clothes on a regular basis is an unsustainable model and one that must be replaced by an emphasis on sustainability and care. Whilst not shying aware from the difficulties of this, we discuss the issue that many sustainable labels are often too expensive to become items of mass consumption, we nevertheless advocate the adoption of an attitude of care. By seeking to look after what you own and consume, you will in turn look after our world. 

 “We need to do better and be taking ownership of the problems we created” 

Daze Aghaji

Issues like fast fashion can be fixed firmly at the intersection of social and climate issues. Not only do these pressing concerns damage the environment, but they also perpetuate the exploitation of under-developed or poorer communities and peoples. Daze references our colonial past in this instance, talking of the ways in which it habituated and engrained abusive and coercive tactics for economic gain. In our capitalist world today, some of that attitude most certainly remains. Large multinational corporations and companies must be held to account by the populations they supply, forcing them to consistently adopt more sustainable and eco-friendly means of production and operation. Our involvement as consumers is essential to the bringing of change in this area. A more forgiving attitude must be adopted if we are to both help our planet and the people who live on it. This forsaking of a fixation on profit margins or efficiency of production will bring a mirid of benefits. 

“Climate change is a by-product of our social ills” 

Daze Aghaji

In our current climate, it is so important that we also discuss the implications of COVID-19 on the ongoing climate emergency. The spread of coronavirus momentarily paused the world as we knew it. We as individuals and communities were given time to think, read and educate ourselves on the pressing issues that so often are swept aside in chaotic everyday life. The outpouring of indignation following the murder of George Floyd, amongst the wider Black Lives Matter movement, is just one example of how this time provoked large-scale activism. Daze calls on us to also utilise this watershed moment to bring about real and meaningful change to the discussion on the climate crisis. We cannot be satisfied with promises to become carbon neutral or reduce emissions in the coming decades, real change must tackle the present as well as the future.  

Further information

Extinction Rebellion: 

Daze Aghaji:  

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Season 5 Episode 3 – Understanding the #EndSARS Protests, Part 1: Anti-Corruption and Political Power in Nigeria

This week, in partnership with Global Integrity, we are joined by Dr. Jackie Harvey of Northumbria University and Dr. Pallavi Roy of SOAS University of London to discuss the structures of political power in Nigeria and the underlying systems of corruption that culminated in the protests of the #EndSARS movement. To understand the ongoing #EndSARS protests, this week’s guests provide an in-depth look at the formal and informal political and financial economies at play in Nigeria. This episode is the first in a two-part series focusing on human rights abuses in Nigeria and the protests fighting to #EndSARS and end police brutality.

SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) was founded in Nigeria in 1992 as a security apparatus designed to investigate and mitigate kidnappings and robberies that were taking place at the time. One of the key characteristics of SARS, when it was founded, was its highly secretive and opaque operational strategy. SARS personnel were permitted to travel throughout the country in unmarked vehicles without uniforms. While at the time this was purported to enhance their ability to investigate crime, the extra-legal and inhumane proceedings conducted by the unit soon brought SARS to national notoriety. The recent protests across Nigeria to #EndSARS illustrate a larger picture of the complex political and financial economies of Nigeria. To fully understand the push to #EndSARS, Dr. Harvey and Dr. Roy explain the backdrop of widespread corruption and economic uncertainty against which the protests are taking place.

Both Dr. Harvey and Dr. Roy work to research and combat corruption in Nigeria. Dr. Harvey’s financial corruption research has addressed matters such as beneficial ownership, or the natural person who ultimately has control of any legal arrangements, a position which is often obscured from the public eye, and asset recovery, or legislative tools provided to prosecuting authorities to help collect evidence that assets are the proceeds of criminal activity.

“It doesn’t help if those that are committing [bribery] are getting away with it.”

 Dr. Jackie Harvey

Without the appropriate legal capacity to combat such instances of corruption, the authorities are not able to prosecute these cases. When corruption goes unpunished, it creates an environment in which it is understood that there are no legal repercussions, and this initiates a vicious cycle. Dr. Roy’s research centers on finding impactful, feasible policy solutions to complex political and economic issues centered on anti-corruption, with projects spanning the globe.

As Dr. Roy notes, to understand the political structure of any nation, both formal and informal systems of power must be taken into account. In Nigeria, there is a high degree of informality of political and economic activity. The benefits of the nation’s oil wealth are often redistributed among political elites, rather than in the communities in which the oil is originally found. In response to this uneven distribution of oil industry profits, informal, “artisanal” oil refineries have emerged as a means of keeping oil profits within communities.

“How do we make anti-corruption real, not just something that sounds very good on paper, not just something that’s a good tagline?”

Dr. Pallavi Roy

Similarly, in response to drastically under-supplied electrical power, many residents have created agreements with local engineers or ceased to pay their electrical bills. As Dr. Roy describes, these are adaptations born of necessity, not preference. Both the scale of the informal sector and the dependency of the Nigerian economy on oil have proven to be challenging structures for regulating authorities. Publicly available agency records and data are difficult to find, as Dr. Harvey relates, and the prevalent cash economy and untapped potential of the Nigerian tax base present additional complicating factors. Furthermore, with the specter of climate change looming large and the impending shifts away from fossil fuel use, vast uncertainty has been introduced into the Nigerian economy.

These uncertainties can be tapped for innovative potential. Nigeria is an incredibly dynamic, entrepreneurial nation. When looking to the future, Dr. Roy encourages listeners to use the leverage of the current political momentum to push the government towards tractable goals like job creation and skills training programs. The protests are an important way to signal to the government that conditions need to change and the social contract must be reset. Dr. Harvey underscores the necessity for accountability and transparency, including the public accessibility of agency data, which would enable all citizens to hold their government accountable. By keeping pressure on government agencies to publish data, we can combat the corruption that stems from lack of oversight.

“I was just speaking to a Nigerian friend last night about, where he thinks the opportunities lay in Nigeria and he just said, ‘Well, Pallavi, there are 200 million opportunities,’ and I really couldn’t think of a better way to sum it up.”

Dr. Pallavi Roy

Join us in the coming weeks for Part 2 of our two-part series focusing on anti-corruption efforts and the #EndSARS protests in Nigeria.

Further Information

Global Integrity Webpage:

Global Integrity Anti-Corruption Evidence Webpage:

Read more: Hiding the beneficial owner and the proceeds of corruption

Dr. Jackie Harvey’s Biography:

Dr. Pallavi Roy’s Biography:

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Season 5 Episode 2 – “Call it Genocide”: The Rohingya Crisis in Conversation with Dan Sullivan and Tun Khin

In this episode we are excited to be joined by Dan Sullivan, the senior advocate for human rights at Refugees International. With over 17 years of experience in human rights policy, focussing on areas of mass displacement like Myanmar, Dan gives usadetailed and critical appraisal of the country’s situation. Such takes in the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the continued persecution and oppression of the Rohingya people, the state of democracy following the recent election and what the international community must do to provoke meaningful change. We challenge the decision of international actors to refrain from categorising the crisis as a genocide andoffer visions of what such a move could bring.

Since Declarations covered this crisis in our first season, some 700,000 people have been forced to flee Myanmar, or Burma as it is also known. Approximately one million, the vast majority being Rohingya Muslims, are currently living in camps in Bangladesh and must face the trials of the pandemic in a foreign land and with ever-dwindling access to humanitarian support. International actors and organizations have been forced to leave the country due to the spread of coronavirus and Danfears such will have a distinctly detrimental effect. Indeed, in a report released shortly after the pandemic broke, Refugees International highlighted the threat to those living in the densely populated camps. Organizations such as Dan’s rely on their work on the ground, speaking to refugees, government officials, and humanitarian workers to formulate practical recommendations. With all organizations unable to do this now, through fear of bringing the disease to the camps, Dan estimates 80%of humanitarian-aid has gone. Coupled with the declining media coverage and international involvement in the events in Myanmar, now is as pressing a time as ever to address the ongoing crisis.

“This election was anything but free and fair” – Dan Sullivan

The recent election, so overshadowed by electoral events in the United States, furthers the need to again fix global scrutiny on the treatment of the Rohingya and the state of democracy in the country as a whole. The Union Election Commission, the national level electoral commission of Myanmar, has proved to be flawed, with international funding found to have gone to apps that labeled Rohingya Muslims as Bengali – a term used to imply they are illegal immigrants in the region. Equally, in the run-up to the election, the military declared Rakhine state, among others, as being too dangerous to vote. The majority of Rohingya people can be found within Rakhine yet, due to ongoing conflict between government forces and the Arakan army– the armed wing of the United League of Arakan (ULA) – there were excluded from the electoral process. Disenfranchising both Rohingya and Rakhine citizens appears a thinly veiled attempt to segregate and ostracise those seeking change in the politics of Myanmar. In discussion of this Dan notes:

“The real test of any democracy is how it treats its minorities”

The failings of the election exacerbate the ongoing persecution of the Rohingya. NVCs (National Verification Cards) are widely mistrusted by Rohingya Muslims. With a history of the cards being ignored or revoked, they offer no clear path to recognition of citizenship or increased liberty and freedom.Instead,they act as ameans of identifying minorities, like the Rohingya, and endangering what little freedom they enjoy.Our episode closes with discussion of what the internal community could and should be doing to promote meaningful and long-lasting change. Most prominent in this is Dan’s advocacy of the categorisation of the ongoing crisis as a genocide.He believes strongly such a move would prompt far more coverage and decisive action, forcing international actors to implement stricter sanctions. Whilst many seek to believe the narrative that democracy is moving forward, the recent election shows just why such ideas cannot be allowed to move to forefront of the discussion on Myanmar. Although the U.S. has placed targeted sanctions on military officials – including the Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing – and the ICJ is investigating the case that Myanmar is perpetrating a genocide, we must not be satisfied. Dan calls for us to place increased and sustained pressure on our governments to take meaningful action in the region. We cannot be happy with the progress thus far, nor accept this as a state of normalcy. 

Links to further information:

The work of Refugees International –

Our previous episode on the Rohingya crisis ––with-Dr-Thomas-MacManus-e15e7d

Dan Sullivan’s Twitter –

Tun Khin’s Twitter –

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S5 E1 – Welcome to Season 5

Join our new team of panelists for the first episode of Season 5 of Declarations: The Human Rights Podcast, broadcasting from the Centre of Human Rights and Governance at the University of Cambridge. In this first episode, our panelists introduce themselves and jump into a conversation about the current state of human rights on the global scale and the critical issues that we will be covering this season. Drawing on their experiences and fields of study, our panelists discuss today’s most pressing human rights affronts, from the climate crisis to threats to democracy, from police brutality to declines in women’s rights, and interrogate our role andresponsibility as journalists to inspire and sustain action.

Following through on questions posed in Season 4 about where the state of human rights is headed, the panelists open with a conversation about the effects that the past year has had on global and local human rights – where have we advanced? Where have we regressed? In particular, the panelists raise the importance of engaging speakers from across the globe and across all walks of life. This season, we will be featuring interviews with a wide range of speakers, from entrepreneurs, to authors, to academics, and to activists – everyone who has a cutting edge vantage point to deepen our understanding of today’s human rights issues.

The panelists also delve into the role of journalism and oversight in the human rights landscape. With ever-increasing access to stories from around the globe, the flattening of human stories into 240-character headlines, and the risk of social media fatigue, it is imperative that platforms such as ours provide the needed nuance in human rights stories and offer pathways to action. Furthermore, the panelists discuss the ways in which current watchdog organizations could amplify efforts to ensure that all nations are held to the same standard of transparency and equality. Finally, the panelists share their aims for the season ahead and describe the scope of the issues that we will be discussing.

Coming together from around the world and with different academic focuses, our panelists share a drive to understand the roots of today’s human rights issues by turning not only to history, but to the people who are experiencing these issues firsthand. This season, we invite you to join us as we speak with people who are on the frontlines of today’s more pressing injustices about the realities of human rights defenses and how we can stand together for a better, fairer future.