“That means that, especially in those countries, but I think in all countries, the so-called ‘vigilant society’ is of the utmost importance. That vigilant society, I tried to make clear this morning [at the symposium], is we—we in our professional lives and we in our private lives—within our own possibilities and responsibilities. It is clear, of course, that human rights automatically means responsibility.
“In that respect, our participation in the Network, be it as members or as observers, cannot be without engagement. Torsten Wiesel made that very clear in his own way, and I want to support and underline that very strongly. If we come together once every two years, and if we see with great satisfaction that our numbers are growing, that means that our activities also have to grow, because coming here implies engagement. We must all contribute to the success of the Network.
“First, the Network ensures that we have access, thanks to the Executive Director, Carol Corillon, and her staff at the National Academies, to reliable information about serious violations of the rights of our fellow scholars. It is very difficult to get that kind of information, and it would be risky and counterproductive if we were to take any action on the basis of inaccurate information.
“Second, the Network promotes coordinated action by our academies in the form of letters of concern. These letters are signed by members of the academies and, at times, by their presidents. Such coordinated activities obviously increase the impact of our interventions. A letter from the Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences makes no impression whatsoever anywhere in the world—except perhaps in Indonesia—but if the letter received from the Netherlands academy coincides with the receipt of letters from other academies, then the impact of the combined action is much greater than the isolated action of one academy.
“Third, I am not sure if all of you are aware that the Network, through its Executive Committee and selected academy members, submits petitions to the Committee on Conventions and Recommendations of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) about allegations of violations of rights of scholars. It is an effective process through which we get responses from the UNESCO committee; we get reactions through the committee from the respective governments, and our petitions are taken seriously.