Highlights Human Rights Forum 2021

Thank you so much for not only a fantastic 2021 Human Rights Film Festival but also for an inspiring 2021 Human Rights Forum. Four days filled with rousing debates, eye-opening speeches and fascinating pitches immersed us all in the world of human rights.

Today, we would like to take the opportunity to share some of our personal highlights with you:  

European Future Common Good Oriented Storytelling Realistic Utopias Storytelling & Activism

European Future - #DocDay II

In her inspiring opening speech, Michelle Müntefering (Minister of State for international cultural affairs) reminded us all to never forget that behind every number and statistic in politics there are always human fates and stories, underlining the significant role played by the media in alerting the general public to human rights violations.

The panel discussion ‘Missing European Perspectives’ acknowledged that what is really missing is a shared European identity. Monica Sassatelli (cultural sociologist and associate professor at the University of Bologna) explained that, whereas plural narratives may not seem like a strong means to construct a European identity, they do indeed offer ways to deal with complexity.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya (Belarusian Civil Rights Activists and politician) then emphasized the importance of media and art in the fight for freedom, as they allow people to change their perspectives and feel empathy for the people affected while providing access to information not represented by the mainstream media.

Special thanks to the Senatsverwaltung Berlin for their support of this conference day.


Michelle Müntefering (Minister of State for international cultural affairs)
Atje Drexlers (Robert Bosch Stiftung)
Aslak Holmberg (Vice President Saami Council)
Margje de Koning (Movies that Matter)
Sonia Nandzik-Herman (re:Focus Media Labs)
Monica Sassatelli (University Bologna)
Jana Sepehr (Human Rights Film Festival Berlin)
Grażyna Baranowska (Centre of Fundamental Rights at the Hertie School)
Els van Driel (Shadow Game)
Heike Gumz (Europe Must Act)
Kerstin Schütt (Twisted Ramble)
Anna Vielhaber (New-Media Medienboard)
Svetlana Tikhanovskaya (Belarusian Civil Rights Activists and politician)
Tatsiana Hatsura-Yavorska (Watch Docs)
Nicholas Connolly (Deutsche Welle)
Lotte Leicht (Human Rights Watch)
Victoria Fedorova (Lawyer)
Anna Ramskogler-Witt (Human Rights Film Festival Berlin)
Cathryn Costello (Centre of Fundamental Rights at the Hertie School)
Meron Estefanos (Expert)
Salam Aldeen (Team Humanity)    

Storytelling for the Common Good

Constructive journalism aspires to include a diversity of perspectives as well as different voices. Because large parts of society tend to avoid the news from time to time since as they find it too depressing, as Ellen Heinrichs (Deutsche Welle) argued, reporting needs to find and offer more solutions. Additionally, she said, journalism should inspire and foster debate and actively contribute to public dialogue. 

In his inspiring pitch, Wim Wenders (director) provided insights into his new project ‘Peace by Peace’ and explained that, although there is nothing more obvious than mankind’s overall wish for peace, most people do not have a lot of knowledge about peace or about how it could be achieved. Ursula Schröder (Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy), Manfred Nowak (Global Campus of Human Rights) and Elyx (UN Digital Ambassador) joined the conversation and discussed the different languages and pieces of peace which must be brought together in order to achieve true, global, long-lasting piece. 
Watch the pitch and the following discussion on our YouTube Channel here!

We are extremely grateful to our partner Chambal Media, who co-curated this day and hosted a satellite event in India. 

Special thanks to the Schöpflin Stiftung for their support of this conference day.


Marcus J Gilroy-Ware (Author)
Jana Sepehr (Human Rights Film Fesitval Berlin)
Ellen Heinrichs (Deutsche Welle)
Jesse van ‘t Hull (NATV)
Musa Hadid (Mayor of Ramallah)
Nazi (Khabar Lahariya)
Suman Gupta (Jan Morcha)
Josephine Schmidt (The New Humanitarian)
Wim Wenders (Director)
Ursula Schröder (Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy)
Manfred Nowak (Global Campus of Human Rights)
Elyx (Digital Ambassador, United Nations)
Jules Giraudat (Film Maker & Journalist Forbidden Stories)
Graeme Smith (Journalist und Analyst)
Sania Farooqui (Kuratorin)
Bhasha Singh (News Click)
Geeta (Khabar Lahariya)
Patrice Schneider (Media Development Investment Fund)
Lukas Harlan (Schöpflin Foundation)
Miguel Castro (Gates Foundation)
Jan Sebastian Friedrich-Rust (Aktion gegen den Hunger)
Sunil (The Independent and Public Spirited Media Foundation)

Realistic Utopias

Throughout the last decade, humanitarian needs worldwide have been increasing each and every year. This is due to the fact that crises have been growing in terms of their numbers as well as their duration and complexity. However, Marie Wagner (Global Public Policy Institute), Sibylle Katharina Sorg (Federal Foreign Office), Ayey Madut Ring (Healthcare Foundation Organization, South Sudan) and Alfred Ejem (Action Against Hunger, Kenya) also explained that, today, 50% of all humanitarian needs are at least partly predictable. Moreover, localization plays a crucial role, especially in the context of famine prevention, which is why people at a local level need to be empowered to formulate their needs.

her outstanding keynote, Aya Chebbi, a pan-African diplomat and feminist, stressed the importance of letting people tell their own stories in their own words, illustrating how mainstream media reporting mistakenly focusses on the political changes taking place, but not on how they impact people and actually change their lives.

Andrew Gilmour (Berghof Foundation), Franziska Heinisch (activist), Thimali Kodikara (Mothers of Invention), Lilli Fuhr (Heinrich Böll Foundation) and Margje de Koning (Movies that Matters) discuss different takes on how to tackle the climate crisis and how marginalized groups are more strongly affected by the consequences of climate change and therefore also have fewer possibilities to adapt.

Special thanks to the Robert Bosch Foundation for their support of the conference.


Marie Wagner (Global Public Policy Institute)
Sibylle Katharina Sorg (Federal Foreign Office)
Ayey Madut Ring (Healthcare Foundation Organization)
Alfred Ejem (Action Against Hunger Kenia)
Aya Chebbi (Pan-African Feminist and Diplomat)
Anna Ramskogler-Witt (Human Rights Film Festival Berlin)
Nadja Smith (Big Oil vs The Law)
Mette Reitzel (Big Oil vs The Law)
Lilli Fuhr (Heinrich Böll Foundation)
Dylan Mathews (Peace Direct)
Antonia Musunga (The Kenya Fight Inequality Alliance)
Alejandra Ancheita (ProDESC)
Kathrin Strobel (Robert Bosch Foundation)    
Andrew Gilmour (Berghof Foundation)
Franziska Heinisch (Aktivistin) 
Thimali Kodikara (Mothers of Invention)
Meron Estefanos (Heinrich Böll Foundation)
Margje de Koning (Movies that Matters) 

Storytelling & Activism

The panel ‘Storytelling and Activism’ explored new and creative modes of storytelling which might play a key role in making people listen once more to stories of human rights violations. Participants also discussed the significance of collaboration between activists and filmmakers or storytellers. 

The panel discussion ‘Changing the Narrative (Women at the Peacemaking Table)’ raised the question of how we can include the largest marginalized group – women – in peacemaking and political processes in general. When looking at this problem, it is important to also acknowledge that peace processes are not linear, malleable procedures and that we need to redefine and renegotiate political consensus to make them truly inclusive. 

The final discussion of the forum took a closer look at this year’s festival theme ‘The Art of Change’ and explored the role played by art in the context of activism as a powerful means of reaching people. Moreover, participants concluded, we should not ignore, but rather utilize the huge shift taking place in the way that young people are consuming information and media. As one of the most powerful tools of our time, social media should not be disregarded either. 

We are extremely grateful to our partners the Ladima Foundation and the Deutsche Welle Akademie, who co-curated this day and hosted a satellite event in Nigeria. 

Special thanks to the Federal Foreign Office for their support of this conference day.


Uma Mishra (Activist) 
Katja Riemann (Actress and Director)     
Thimali Kodikara (Mothers of Invention)
Marcus Beeko (Amnesty International)
Martina Dase (Save the Children)
Roya Sadat (The Sharp Edge of Peace)
Leslie Thomas (The Sharp Edge of Peace) 
Rachel Reid (Human Rights Advocacy Afghanistan)
Hannah Neumann (MP European Parliament)
Atifa Rezaei (Peace Activist)    
Johanna Poutanen (Martti Ahtisaari Peace Foundation)
Eck Volkmann (Inclusive Peace) 
Passy Mubalama (AIDPROFEN)    
Margje de Koning (Movies that Matters)
Wolfgang Kaleck (European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights)
Anna Ramskogler-Witt (Human Rights Film Festival Berlin)
Murad Subay (Artist)    
Sander van Bussel (Human Rights Tattoo) 
Bikiya Graham Douglas (Actress and Artist)

If you would like to learn more about the forum, become a partner or otherwise support our efforts, please do not hesitate to contact Anna Ramskogler-Witt (info@hrffb.de).

26. DECEMBER 2021