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2020 THEME is RESILIENCE NOUN: the capacity to recover from difficulties.
Background to our 2020 theme Through film, art and talks the 18th Oxford Human Rights Festival shares the voices and stories of resilient individuals. We will celebrate cultures, encourage debates and discussions and have opportunities to develop pathways to strengthen our resilience and thrive.
There has been growing interest in resilience in the academic, humanitarian and environmental sectors. Looking through a resilience lens presents us with an opportunity to observe, measure and assess the ability of individuals and communities to mobilise their own recovery from an exposure to physical or mental setbacks. Resilience is about what action an individual or community is able to take during and after a disaster. In addition, it also asks us to consider the notion of being prepared for setbacks which involves us taking time to understand potential disruptions and then carefully map out how to manage these - many organisations call this 'preparedness' and it can be a helpful tool that we can use in our everyday lives. It is important to remember that resilience is not all about individuals and communities, it is also about the planning and actions that organisations and governments can take to support individuals and communities to be resilient.
The world is going through extraordinary changes. From mass migrations of people, civil society uprisings, environmental changes to the rising mental health challenges of individuals – setbacks and disasters are affecting all of us.
According to UNHCR there are 70.9 million people worldwide that have been forcibly displaced - the numbers account for 43.1 million being internally displaced, 25.9 million refugees (half under the age of 18 years old) and 3.5 million asylum seekers. It is not only the forcibly displaced that suffer stress, research has found that we are all susceptible to mental and physical adversities in our own lives. In the 2013 Global Burden of Disease study stated that “the predominant mental health problem worldwide is depression, followed by anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.” In the UK “in an average classroom, ten children will have witnessed their parents separate, eight will have experienced severe physical violence, sexual abuse or neglect, one will have experienced the death of a parent and seven will have been bullied”. How about disability? “There are 13.9 million disabled people in the UK and life costs you £583 more on average a month if you're disabled.”
As a Festival based in Oxford we acknowledge the poverty stresses in Oxford. 10 of Oxford's 83 neighbourhood areas are among the 20% most deprived areas in England experiencing multiple levels of deprivation, 25% of children in Oxford live below the poverty line and according to Oxford City Councils September 2019 ‘Street counts’ it reported 51 people were sleeping rough on the streets at the time.
All these statistics reflect some of the mental and physical stresses that individuals are facing in the world today but they also lead us to question the structures and policies of organisations, companies, NGOs and governments on their role in the challenges and obstructions that individuals and communities are having to grapple with on a daily basis and in disaster and conflict scenarios.
We are proud to be in the city of Oxford - a City of Sanctuary. We as a city, are part of a movement that has a vision of welcome and promise to be a place of safety for all including people fleeing from violence and persecution. The City of Sanctuary movement in Oxford also celebrates the skills refugees and asylum seekers bring with them and work with partners to provide a platform to help them engage with the city. In 2018 Oxford City and partnering organisations settled 27 refugee families in Oxford under the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme (SVPRS) and the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme (VCRS).
This Festival invites people to learn about the lives of individuals and communities through listening, reading, observing, questioning and discussing stories of resilience as they visit the exhibition and take part in the festival.
The theme for the 2020 Festival came out of suggestions from the 2019 Oxford Human Rights Festival student committee, CENDEP staff, students and alumni.
 Manyena, Machingura, O’Keefe (2019). Disaster Resilience Integrated Framework for Transformation (DRIFT): A new approach to theorising and operationalising resilience. World Development Journal, Elsivier, UK  https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/fundamental-facts-about-mental-health-2016  https://mhfaengland.org/mhfa-centre/research-and-evaluation/mental-health-statistics/  https://www.scope.org.uk/media/disability-facts-figures/  https://www.oxford.gov.uk/info/20131/population/497/poverty_and_deprivation  https://www.oxford.gov.uk/info/20019/homelessness/1294/street_counts_-_how_many_people_are_sleeping_rough  https://oxford.cityofsanctuary.org/  https://www.oxford.gov.uk/news/article/796/city_council_successfully_resettles_27_refugee_families_in_oxford