Note: This blog was authored by Rujjares Hansapiromchok, an Enough Project Student Upstander at the George Washington University.
The Lemkin Summit brought together over 150 people from different states as well as participants from around the world. The Summit, which is focused on ending genocide and mass atrocities, culminates with day where participants lobby Congress. I had the pleasure of leading one of the California groups and helping prepare the group for our meetings on Capitol Hill. For the first two days, participants learned from professionals in conflict prevention, resolution, and peacebuilding. The panels varied from learning about corruption in foreign governments, understanding kleptocracies and their international network of facilitators, and practicing various advocacy skills.
One of my favorite things about the Lemkin Summit is the diversity of the participants based on their backgrounds and experiences. Throughout the weekend, I met incredible people who are grassroots activists, professionals in the field, teachers, professors, students, and more. Additionally, I met people from Sudan, South Sudan, and the Congo whom had experienced conflict firsthand. They told their stories and discussed what motivates them to be activists for their countries; it was truly inspiring and pushed me to continue learning and refining my own advocacy skills. Regardless of everyone’s background, we were passionate about the issues and want to see substantive policy changes.
When the group met for lobbying trainings, it was an amazing opportunity to get to know the group members on a deeper level. We went around introducing ourselves and shared our personal experience about how we got involved with the Enough Project. We then reviewed our three main “asks” for our meetings with Congressional offices : support a bipartisan Sudan bill; co-sponsor and support bills consistent with the Corporate Transparency Act of 2017 that addresses the issue of beneficial ownership; and request additional $3M funding in the FY2020 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee (FSGG) appropriations bill to bolster capacity for the relevant agency to address African conflicts and human rights. We strategically planned the meetings based on the skills and stories each person may bring to the table, which was incredible and we had the chance in preparing to learn about each other’s work and experiences.
My group had meetings with Rep. Lieu (D-CA), Rep. Sherman (D-CA), Rep. Schiff (D-CA), as well as Senator Feinstein (D-CA). For the request of additional funding for FSGG, we were able to coordinate the three House offices by asking Rep. Sherman to draft a formal letter requesting for additional funding while Rep. Lieu and Rep. Schiff could potentially be signatories. It was incredible to see how our lobbying efforts would be executed through legislation. All the meetings went smoothly and were informational. The staffers were great at listening and acknowledging our concerns. It was hopeful to see that they genuinely care and want to find ways to deliver our asks.
Overall, the Lemkin Summit helped to train a diverse group of people with similar interests and passions to support policies with the intention to prevent genocide and mass atrocities. It was impactful for me to learn about other people’s stories and how I can be a better advocate by improving my skills. I learned many valuable lessons from the speakers and attendants. I am truly inspired by the summit and excited to continue my work in this field.