Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's Address at the San Francisco Freedom Forum
SAN FRANCISCO (October 4, 2012)— Speaking at the San Francisco Freedom Forumbefore an audience of top innovators, international human rights activists, and fellow dissidents, Burmese democratic leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi called for a new approach to ending human rights violations around the world. In a video released today by the Human Rights Foundation of the Nobel Laureate’s speech at last week’s event, Daw Suu said that while it is important to bring attention to human rights abuses that are committed, what is most needed is to stop human rights violations from occurring and to make people understand that they should not be committing human rights violations in the first place.
In her address, the Nobel Laureate shared her experiences on the road to freedom in Burma, outlined a philosophy of non-violence, and paid tribute to the late Czech leader and playwright Václav Havel. Long persecuted by the Burmese military junta, the democracy advocate gave this speech as part of her first trip to the U.S. in more than 20 years.
Daw Suu called for a new human rights agenda in Burma that examines ''the root of the matter'' and spoke personally about her own experience of struggling to be free. What is most needed, she said, is to find out what can be done to stop making people commit human rights violations: ''This is what will help us most in our road to freedom. Not just to be able to prevent human rights violations through rule of law, but [by] making people understand why they should not engage in the violation of human rights."
Addressing the opportunity to build democratic institutions in Burma, she said that ''we need to free our people not just from oppression but from their own fears and their own hatred.'' Making people recognize that they are destroying their own human dignity as well as those of others when they commit atrocities, is a critical part of this process.
Invoking the spirit of her friend Václav Havel, she said that human beings need to live in truth and be responsible for their choices. "Bigotry, prejudice, unjust laws, oppression—all these strike at the root of a free society, which begins with freedom of the spirit," she added.
After her talk, Daw Suu was presented with the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissentby Freedom Forum founder Thor Halvorssen, in recognition of her ''creativity and decades of determination that kept pressure on Burma's leaders."
Daw Suu was one of 12 speakers to address the first U.S.-based Freedom Forum. Over the next week, talks will be made available at www.oslofreedomforum.com including speeches from: Saudi women’s rights pioneer Manal al-Sharif; conflict psychologist Justine Hardy; Iranian author and former prisoner of conscience Marina Nemat; Slate editor William J. Dobson; drug policy reformer Ethan Nadelmann; installation artist Naomi Natale; Ugandan equal rights advocate Kasha Jacqueline; Chinese scholar and pro-democracy advocate Yang Jianli; Ghanaian economist George Ayittey; Moroccan journalist Ahmed Benchemsi; and Kazakh theater director Bolat Atabayev.
The San Francisco Freedom Forum united these speakers with a community of 200 dissidents, journalists, thinkers, and innovators for a day of exchanging ideas, building initiatives, and celebrating human rights. GlobalPost called the event an “extraordinary and important gathering,” and The Daily Beast described it as a place where Daw Suu “crossed paths with fellow activists from Saudi Arabia to Uganda,” meeting her peers and together giving “testimonies of their work reaching for a democratic ideal.”
The Freedom Forum is an international conference series produced by the Human Rights Foundation (HRF). The Forum seeks to: inspire action through the exchange of ideas; cultivate a vibrant international community; spotlight the work of activists and innovators; establish a human rights axis for journalists; connect participants with allies and supporters; raise human rights to the top of the global agenda; and create a publicly accessible archive of powerful human rights testimony.
The next Freedom Forum will take place in Oslo, Norway, on May 13-15, 2013. For event updates, please follow the Freedom Forum on Twitter and Facebook. For more information, please contact email@example.com.