What's it like to volunteer at the ICM?

Firstly, what is the ICM? Good question! At AIA (Amnesty International Australia) we love our acronyms! ICM stands for the International Council Meeting. This is the largest decision making forum at Amnesty International and was held in August this year in Rome.

I had the privilege of being able to volunteer at this important event. In my usual life, I am a Community Organiser for AIA, working with our action groups and activists in NSW. This year I’ve been on extended leave and happened to be in Europe at the same time, so I put my hand up for the ICM volunteer team to get an insight into how the big decisions are made.

What an incredible experience

Our diverse and fun volunteer team did our best to support the over 400 delegates from 80+ countries in the important discussions they were making about the future of our movement. Our Australian delegates already did a great summary of some of the discussions and decisions made, but what did volunteering look like?

On a practical level it meant registering attendees, making sure delegates and presenters had their needs met, assisting in sessions, counting votes for/against resolutions, ferrying microphones around and handing out headsets so that people could understand the different languages being spoken (there were also dozens of pro bono translators who were working hard to make sure people’s voices were heard and understood).

“Occupation militaire”

In one scenario it also involved me attempting to be a translator as a youth activist from Tunisia discussed our military occupation policy with an activist from Taiwan. My French is not bad — I can order a croissant — but military occupation discussions? I gave it a go… “Occupation militaire”. My French was also tested by my room-mate, Florence, an inspiring activist from Togo, who is passionate about women’s rights and would start speaking French to me in the morning before my brain was awake. But I did learn from her about the incredible human rights education programs that Amnesty runs in her country, which use theatre and community workshops to empower women.

Amnesty democracy in action

So apart from practicing my French and handing out headsets, what did I take from the ICM? My pride in our Amnesty movement was strengthened. It’s incredible to be a part of such a diverse and democratic, member-led movement. I was inspired by the knowledge, passion and commitment of the delegates in the room, especially our fantastic team from Australia (I’m biased). We were moved to do more by guest speakers from around the world at the forefront of human rights violations, including our very own colleagues in Turkey. And I made some great friendships with our volunteer team from Turkey, Austria, Cote D’Ivoire, USA, Sweden, Togo, Venezuela and more.

The big picture

We are involved in such a large and powerful movement for human rights. I would recommend you take the opportunity to get more involved in shaping the future of our movement. This was the last ICM, as the movement voted during this meeting to change our democracy model to an annual Global Assembly. So stay tuned to hear about volunteering opportunities there!

In the meantime, why not make sure that you’re a member of AIA and check out the Branch Committee in your state/territory. These are the elected representatives for your region who help motivate, coordinate and develop human rights activism. They empower and support our local activists and lead consultation on our vision, campaign priorities and policies. You can find more about each of our Branches here and be sure to attend their Annual General Meeting in May each year.

We are all Amnesty International, and together we can ensure that our organisation is relevant and effective in a world where we are needed now more than ever.