With barely two months passed since he descended the steps of the Salt Lake City-County Building for the last time as the capital city's chief executive, Rocky Anderson is back in the political limelight with the announcement of his new advocacy and education group, High Road for Human Rights.
Anderson introduced the organization over presentations and fundraisers Wednesday and Thursday evenings at the organization's new offices in downtown Salt Lake. He said the group will fill a need not currently met by human rights advocates.
"There's a lot of good work being done by a number of organizations," Anderson said, "But no one has done the work to create the grass-roots base, and that's where the real leadership has to be."
A preliminary list of issues that will be targeted by the group include genocide in Darfur, international human trafficking for sexual exploitation, torture and climate change. Anderson immediately qualified the inclusion of climate change as "fundamentally a human-rights issue."
"(Climate change) will be the cause of the greatest human-rights tragedy known to our world ... if we don't urgently turn things around," Anderson said.
Anderson said a historical pattern of silence has allowed epic human rights abuses from the Holocaust to Khmer Rouge atrocities in Cambodia to the current and ongoing violence in Sudan and the mission of High Road for Human Rights is to advocate for change starting at a community level.
"High Road for Human Rights ... is designed to fill the void in the world of human rights organizations," Anderson said. "We will raise consciousness about major human rights challenges and provide an organizing mechanism to empower people to help bring about change."
The group has a board composed of members from around the country, including some names familiar to Utahns. These include Mary Dickson, writer and host of "Contact" on KUED Channel 7, former Utah Supreme Court Justice Michael Zimmerman and Utah writer Terry Tempest Williams.
When asked why he chose to make Salt Lake City the organization's headquarters, Anderson said it made sense to him.
"I think it makes the point really well in terms of local, community grass-roots organizing to have this organization in Salt Lake City," Anderson said. "And I'm from here and I love this city."
Startup funding for the group was provided by Norman and Barbara Tanner, though Anderson is looking for subsistence financing to come from members.
"Primarily, we're asking individuals who feel strongly about this to make a financial commitment and make a commitment to action," Anderson said.
As a part of the effort to attract members to the fledgling organization, Anderson will be presenting talks across the country, with the next stop in California.
A strategy document on the group's Web site states the long-term goals of establishing "hundreds of local chapters, supported by regional or statewide offices ... will address the same precise human rights challenges ... speaking with one powerful voice and acting together to bring about major reforms in public policy."Information on the group can be found at www.highroadforhumanrights.org.
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