2024 Editorial and official messages

Laura Longobardi, Laila Alonso Huarte and Guillaume Noyé

Co-editorial directors and Administrative director

Between resistance and revolt: the power of images

The world appears to have entered an era of polycrisis. Beyond the obvious urgency of the situation, the interdependence of geopolitical, economic, social, and environmental crises, coupled with concerns raised by the development of emerging technologies and the varied landscape of international legal standards, all contribute to a sense of helplessness and bewilderment.

Within such a context, where crises are proliferating and, even more disconcertingly, appear to be mutually reinforcing, how can we navigate our era without succumbing to pessimism? Moreover, what role does a cultural event such as ours play in this intricate landscape?

In the midst of every upheaval, there exists a disruption of our sense of direction; yet, it is within these circumstances that new perspectives emerge. The strength of an event such as the FIFDH lies in its ability to unite those who aid us in deciphering the intricacies of the world, reflect on collective solutions and remind us of the need to take action. This influence is further heightened by the potency of images and the significance of representations in fostering conditions conducive to empathy and dedication.

In the face of dwindling freedoms and eroding social advancements, compounded by the inertia of political powers and the prevalence of short-term interests over any long-term vision, it becomes imperative to safeguard spaces for resistance, listening, and expression. It is within these spaces that solutions—ranging from the pragmatic and tangible to the radical or utopian—can be cultivated. 

While victories may prove fleeting and losses definitive, we cherish the next 10 days as an opportunity to persist in our resistance. 

Official messages

Simon Geissbühler

Ambassador, Head of the Peace and Human Rights Division (DPDH) of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA)

Last year marked the 75th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This shared vision must continue to be our guiding light. Against a backdrop of declining levels of trust and growing polarisation in many parts of the world, it is important to remember that human rights are an integral part of the solution to these problems, that they are at the heart of conflict prevention. The FDFA’s diplomacy on human rights is a constant reminder of this fact.

FIFDH reaffirms the position of international Geneva in denouncing violations wherever they occur, but also in providing food for thought. It brings together the academic, diplomatic, economic and artistic worlds, as well as the whole of civil society.  The Festival celebrates and promotes the voices and actions of all those who defend human rights. The richness and diversity of all these different angles make FIFDH a key forum for information, awareness, understanding, debate and inspiration. As a cultural event, it plays a key role in reminding the public at large that the protection and promotion of human rights are even more relevant today than ever before. 

Alfonso Gomez

Mayor of the City of Geneva

After a particularly difficult 2023, the start of 2024 continues to give cause for concern. The never-ending war in Ukraine and the terrible conflict in the Middle East are wreaking havoc on civilian populations and will leave lasting scars. In virtually every corner on the earth, fundamental rights are under attack, the climate is disrupted, and unity is being severely tested. Against this backdrop, Geneva, as the depositary city of the Conventions of the same name, has a greater duty than ever to ensure respect for international humanitarian law, but also to work for peace and sound the alarm bells over the state of the world. For 10 days, the FIFDH will take on this role. Through its powerful work:  meetings with experts and events that are increasingly open to the city, it will highlight the current geopolitical and climatic upheavals. Through images that often shock, through the force of its message, FIFDH will awaken awareness, bring people together and resonate, in each and every one of us, as a vibrant call to action. To build a more humane and sustainable world. 

Sami Kanaan

Administrative Councillor in charge of the Department of Culture and Digital Transition

Debate is an art that must be preserved. In a society that preaches speed and catchphrases, we need now more than ever to uphold the conditions for constructive debate between men and women. The International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH) plays an active part in this.

FIFDH provides its attendees with the opportunity to feel the pulse of a society that is fighting for greater justice, that believes in equality, in a world of solidarity and in respect for the environment.

It is also an opportunity to highlight struggles that do not make the media headlines. To discover human beings working for their community. People who devote their time and energy to carrying a message of peace and working so that their fellow human beings can live in decent conditions. Such devotion deserves our respect and our attention.

By once again enabling artists to present their work in a setting that puts the issues at stake into perspective, the Geneva Festival strengthens the creative process’s place in debates on ideas and social commitments, and gives a voice to activists, scientists and researchers.

Enjoy the debates!

Leo Kaneman

Founder and Honorary President of the FIFDH

With the advent to power of authoritarian governments in Russia, Iran, China and Turkey, we are witnessing an escalation in human rights violations and abuses against people who defend them. We watch helplessly as war crimes and crimes against humanity are perpetrated around the world. How do we deal with such tragedies? Despite the scale of the tragedies unfolding in the four corners of the world, we cannot give up the fight – our salvation may well depend on it.

Fortunately, every victory – no matter how small – gives us hope that some light will shine again: like the Argentinian women who won their fight for the right to abortion in December 2020; like the association SOS Méditerranée, which saves thousands of migrants from sinking ships every year, and the supporters of the refugee welcome programme, which gives migrants hope of a better life after their traumatic experience of exile. Another major step forward was the arrest in 2015 – thanks to the existence of Universal Jurisdiction – of Syrian colonel Anwar Raslan, sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in Syria’s repressive system: a welcome first after years of impunity. With the support of the International Criminal Court (ICC), it will hopefully soon be the turn of Vladimir Putin and others.

These positive examples must show us that success is possible and fan the flames of our ambitions. History has taught us that evil is in fact reversible, and that in turn good can become a reality.

Eléonore Sulser

Culture journalist, head of Entre-Temps, Le Temps

Making sense, against all the odds.

A pandemic, an ongoing war on Europe’s doorstep, another that has been shaking the Middle East to its core in recent months, a host of forgotten or latent conflicts, deep fault lines running across our human societies and a planet whose average temperature continues to rise. The 2020s are making the earth tremble beneath our feet, challenging our beliefs and our convictions. Sometimes we feel there’s nothing left to hold on to.

That would mean ignoring the stories, the narratives, the testimonies, the words and images that make us human. Sometimes we can be frail, pained, fallible, violent, unfair, cruel. But we can take accountability. We can face the world, we can look directly at it, we can describe it in our own words and, in so doing, we can reflect on it – and perhaps be part of healing it; in any case, we can see it as part of a journey and try to make sense of it.

The FIFDH, through the films screened, the public figures invited, the words that are spoken and the images that are shown, contributes to this flow of understanding and humanity, against all odds.

Gilles Marchand and Pascal Crittin

Director General of SSR and Director of Radio Télévision Suisse

SSR and RTS are proud to support the 22nd edition of the FIFDH

More than ever, the Festival is in tune with current international events. Whether through the resurgence of conflicts, confrontation between the world’s major powers, climate change or migration crises, it provides an opportunity to reflect on these realities and the need to question them. 

It is therefore only natural that we should associate ourselves with this approach and, once again this year, renew our commitment to FIFDH, through participation in debates, the presentation of documentaries and by offering exchanges and thoughts on the Festival’s programming on our channels. 

We wish you a festival full of emotions, exchanges and wonderful discoveries.

Karine Bruchez

President of the Association des communes genevoises (ACG)

The 18th century was the century of liberties, the 19th that of equality and the 20th was supposed to pave the way for brotherhood. Alas, in the 21st century, these values struggle to exist in peace and international order, and the plight of populations is not improving, as such their fundamental rights. We continue to live in the nightmarish realms of dystopias, where their violent grip tightens over social injustice and human tragedy. As a window open onto human dignity, the FIFDH denounces the violation of human rights and gives a voice to the victims, and to those who resist oppression. 

Geneva’s local public institutions continue to support this unifying international event. 

Let us all remain committed to defending a culture of solidarity, valuing connection and engaging with the world, not solely through this Festival but every day! 

I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who organises this event and brings it to life, sending out a message of hope for a better world!