Guest blog by Julie Nederkoorn, coordinator at Movies that Matter Festival:

"Our meetup brought together the worlds of peace, justice, and technology"

Late last month, the Movies that Matter Festival joined forces with The Hague Hacks and Border Sessions to host a meetup at the festival. The meetup brought together the worlds of peace, justice, human rights and technology. Julie Nederkoorn, who is part of the team at Movies that Matter, talks about the meetup in her guest contribution below.

As part of the Movies that Matter team, I coordinate the Activist program at the festival. Through this program, that is co-organized with Amnesty International, the activists that are portrayed in the festival’s films are invited to join us in The Hague. They take part in Q&A sessions and ‘meet and greets’ with the audience. Apart from this, the festival organizes personal Impact & Network Programs to link them to people and organizations in The Hague to help them with their important work. The rationale behind our meetup was to hear from activists from Brazil, Hong Kong, The Gambia and Turkey to have an open brainstorm session to find ‘smart solutions’ to the challenges they face.

During dinner in the foyer of Theater aan het Spui, participants from NGOs and organizations in the field of justice and technology got to know each other. The meeting kicked off with an inspirational talk by Anjali Nayar, director of the film Silas and initiator of the app This is my Backyard. She shared her experience about working and filming in Liberia and informed the other participants about the way the app was used by the local communities to report on land grabbing issues. The app facilitates communication between policy makers, journalists, and the local communities.

“This event was unique, as human rights defenders from all over the world had the opportunity to use the tech expertise of The Hague to find tangible solutions” – Shalene Datta, project manager at The Hague Hacks

Turning keyboard activists into volunteers

Prior to the pitches of the participating activists, short 1-minute video clips about their work were screened. Nathan Law and Jason Y. Ng from Hong Kong represented Joshua Wong from the film Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower. The film focuses on the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and their challenge: how to mobilize online support.

Nathan Law: “It would be interesting to know if there are ways (smartphone apps, etc.) to channel online support into something more tangible, e.g. by allowing local political party Demosisto to locate supporters in the proximity to help source supplies and man campaign stops, thereby turning keyboard activists into volunteers.”

The solution focused on not being dependent on one single provider and that Bluetooth and wifi should be used in communication. Also, an online database could work, in which people share information about locations of events, a shared calendar where events can be added, including ratings and encrypted data for offline campaigning and mobilizing the online community.

Virtual reality coming alive in Brazil

The participants worked together in groups and got to know the challenges the activists face. After a brain writing exercise, there was a discussion in four groups in order to gather ideas about what innovation and technology could mean for each activist’s case.

Fotografie Els Broers

Jair Candor from Brazil works in the Amazon forest to track indigenous communities and thereby preventing the forest from being logged and turned into palm oil plantation. The challenge he presented was two-fold: first, there is the wish to change the perception of indigenous people in Brazil: the majority of the Brazilian population feels these people feel they have less rights. The second challenge is how to track illegal logging in an area where there is lack of reception and internet connection.

The group came up with a solution that focused on creating more empathy for indigenous communities by making a virtual reality film about the indigenous people in the Amazon, so people can relate more. A separate solution was to create a marketing campaign to generate a critical mass against illegal logging and to have people donate or adopt trees in the Amazon, so the forest stays intact. The conclusion was that a combination of both would be even better.

A unique event

The organizers were amazed by all the tech solutions that came up in such a short time span. There will be a follow up event at Border Sessions Festival to further develop the best ideas during Border Labs in The Hague from 13-16 June, so stay tuned for more.

Shalene Datta, project manager at The Hague Hacks, concluded, “Movies that Matter x The Hague Hacks x Border Sessions successfully brought the worlds of peace, justice and technology together. This event was unique, as human rights defenders from all over the world had the opportunity to use the tech expertise of The Hague to find tangible solutions.”

“The energy and positivity of our human rights defenders and participants was infectious. Many of our activists left with innovative ideas for their problems, which they are keen to apply. We are very much looking forward to our joint venture with Border Labs, later this year,” she added.

Interested to stay up-do-date? There will be a follow up event at Border Sessions Festival, where the organizers will  further develop their best meetup ideas. Border Labs takes place from 13 through 16 June in the City of The Hague.