- Guest Human Rights Lawyer & Activist -
Today I am pleased to introduce a woman I've been trying to feature on my blog for ages - Frances Galache. As a lawyer, she has litigation practice in the four common-law sections (civil, criminal, labor and administrative), with substantial experience in criminal matters and especially in matters relating to gender based violence and discrimination.
Passionate about research and human rights, she has supplemented her training with a European Doctorate in Law and a Master in International Humanitarian Law and International Criminal Justice. She is also a University Expert in International Development Cooperation for non-profit organizations and Agent of equal opportunities between men and women in the field of international development cooperation.
Frances is a keen cyclist and an excellent photographer as well. Welcome, Frances. Thanks for making the time for this interview ...
WHAT’S YOUR CURRENT JOB?
Right now I am working on the start-up of a consulting on human rights, international humanitarian law, international development cooperation and gender in order to serve law firms, NGOs and individuals. During this transition phase I am volunteering on different projects and running a LinkedIn group: Justice Worldwide Leadership.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE LAW?
Already as a child I dreamed of contributing in the construction of a better world. I did not really know what that meant, but I knew I wanted to work on something related to justice, real justice, regardless of what some laws might say. I learned very soon that laws are not always fair, and that it would be necessary to join all those people who work on worldwide justice and peace.
HOW DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED IN HUMAN RIGHTS? WAS IT ONE PARTICULAR INCIDENT?
More than one particular incident, I think it was my whole childhood in Germany, where I grew up with the World War’s learned lessons and Neo-Nazi violent incidents; as well as my subsequent life in Spain, a lovely country that suddenly changed from a supposed prosperity to absolute austerity and social injustice.
Therefore I would say that my involvement in Human Rights, and more specifically in International Humanitarian Law, is part of a long, phased and yet unfinished personal and professional path.
WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION OF HUMAN RIGHTS?
Human Rights go far beyond the Universal Declaration. In my humble opinion, they consist of the most basic and necessary rules for a peaceful, equitable and sustainable coexistence between all human beings.
This means not only the basic rules contained in the aforementioned Universal Declaration, but also a respect for the so-called third generation rights and, what is more important, the effective implementation of these universal principles using dialogue and cooperation in pursuit of worldwide justice.
DO YOU DO ‘PRO-BONO’ WORK IN HUMAN RIGHTS CASES?
Not really. I am volunteering in some projects but in Spain Pro-bono is not very known yet and therefore it has not been developed as much as in Anglo-Saxon countries. The reason is that Pro-bono struggles against our own system of free access to justice, free for the customer, but paid for the attorney and therefore much more bureaucratized, controlled and, I would say, fair.
For now Pro-bono is only allowed on the right to information and, in some bar associations, as Madrid’s, in providing legal advice to NGOs. That is the reason why I decided to volunteer in some concrete projects.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES IN THE WORLD AS YOU SEE THEM?
Its effective universal application rather than the already known hypocritical speech delivered by the most powerful states and transnational companies which, in the name of common good, only aggravate the world’s social inequality gaps and, thereby, hatred and conflict between peoples, instead of solving these problems.
Taking into account that all human rights as a whole are equally important and even indivisible, to realize some of the most important issues, I would focus on gender equality and indigenous people, which in my opinion make the keys to building a more egalitarian, just and sustainable future for all of us, men and women, from south and north ... centre and periphery.
HOW CAN ORDINARY PEOPLE HELP, OR BECOME INVOLVED?
Rather than “help” I prefer to talk about cooperation, because the concept of "help" seems to evoke a vertical relationship of superiority-inferiority, while “cooperation” refers to a joint work set in a horizontal relationship between equals.
In any case, there are different ways to cooperate, like becoming member of a pro-human rights organization, supporting it financially and/or volunteering. Another option may be to learn more about the issues that concern you, discuss them with family and friends, be aware and try to apply it in your small but important environment. As they say: “Think globally, act locally”; either by promoting responsible consumption, a more equal education or a sustainable use of resources at our daily reach, to give just some examples.
HOW CAN WRITERS AND AUTHORS HELP?
Telling those stories the news does not dare to tell and sometimes are too hard to read in essays. Bringing these stories to the libraries, cinemas or TV can contribute a lot. There are films and documentaries that have been very interesting and sensitive, but we need more, much more, we have to be as insistent as those who want to stuff neoliberalism and violence down our throats.
Since language is a powerful tool for change, another challenge could be to change the way of writing and to show greater awareness on issues such as gender based violence as part of a worldwide patriarchal system, for instance, to further sensitize population.
DO YOU BECOME FRUSTRATED BY THE LACK OF POLITICAL WILL REGARDING HUMAN RIGHTS?
In many cases, I do, yes, I cannot deny it. There are days that I refuse to watch the news to not sink into pessimism and helplessness, but I soon come back to my feet and cast back my eyes to so many people who struggle every day to survive, to maintain their hard-worked possessions, who fight for our rights, whether to work, water, a variety of healthy food, decent housing, education or something that may seem so simple as leisure, perhaps the most neglected and forgotten of all rights.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST VICTORY?
Being myself, remain self-consistent and pursuing my own dreams without worrying about what others may think or say ... a quite hard but interesting and grateful personal and professional challenge.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE SADDEST MOMENT IN YOUR WORK?
I cannot say, there have been several, but perhaps I would highlight the moment when the Spanish government removed their contributions to International Development Cooperation. Though it meant a chance to take my next step forward, I was very sad for all the projects which could not go ahead.
WHAT ARE YOUR BIGGEST FRUSTRATIONS?
Each of the injustices that I see every day, however small they might be, especially when I see how violence and greed seem to triumph over justice, love, dialogue and coexistence.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW?
Apart from setting up my consulting, I'm working on different projects, volunteering with some NGOs, researching on some topics related to human rights and occasionally publishing some articles in journals and webs, such as United Explanations or Revista Pueblos.
This may seem somewhat ambiguous, but I think that this is what any transitional phase is about and I’m glad to see how everything is gradually specifying.
DO YOU WORK ON OTHER CASES, BESIDES HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES?
Not now, I worked for many years as general attorney until I hung up my toga for a time to focus from a different point of view on issues such as gender violence or international development cooperation, two of the bastions of human rights.
If all goes as planned, my next step is to put together legal practice, in particular (international-) criminal law, an active defence of human rights and international humanitarian law, and finally international development cooperation and gender mainstreaming.
DO YOU BELIEVE THAT SOME GOOD THINGS ARE BEING ACHIEVED IN HUMAN RIGHTS?
I think so every time I read a report of the United Nations or any of its agencies, though the news seem to indicate otherwise, so we must not relax our efforts, we can make it.
Copyright Frances Gallache (c)
WHO OR WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST OBSTACLES?
The biggest obstacle is that over 90% of the world's resources are held by less than 10% of the world population. While the vast majority, who are the other 90% of the population, does not wake up, become aware of its power and use it in a peaceful way, we cannot pretend to fulfil our dreams of living in a more just world.
ARE WESTERN GOVERNMENTS PROACTIVE OR REACTIVE?
Their words seem to be proactive, though their records show that they are reactive, unless a specific issue matches one of their political and/or economic interests or, rather, with the interests of the financial gangsters, who actually handle most of world politics.
ANY ADVICE FOR A LAWYER CONSIDERING HUMAN RIGHTS LAW?
Don’t ever give up; always believe in yourself, in your dreams and in humanity. It might be a quite hard job, but it’s really worth it. Every little step we make forward is much more powerful than any frustration.
IF YOU HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO ADDRESS ALL WORLD LEADERS, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?
When are you going to return sovereignty to its rightful owners, the citizens? When are you going to stop working with global organized crime that is subjecting more than a 90% of the world’s population? When are you going to stop delighting our ears with pretty and hypocritical speeches and start to act right? When are you going to think about the future of your children rather than your own material greed?
I don’t think this would help, because they already know and accept the consequences, whether they like them or not, so perhaps it would be better just to remind them that nothing is forever, that the 90% is awakening all over the world and that we want our power back, not for war nor violent revolution, just to implement a real and participative democracy.
WHO HAVE YOU WORKED FOR IN THE PAST?
I started working on my own and collaborating with different law firms. When I decided to temporarily hang up my toga, I started implementing my specializations collaborating, first, with the city of Coslada (Madrid, Spain) holding the position of Director of Equality and, later, with the Spanish NGO “Asociación por la Paz y el Desarrollo” (Association for Peace and Development), providing legal advice and managing international cooperation projects with special attention to the focus on gender mainstreaming.
WHAT’S YOUR GREATEST DREAM?
Nothing more and nothing less than peace and equality worldwide... Do you mean a personal dream? Well, I have always dreamed with travelling around the whole world, and if it could be on a bike, even better.
DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY?
My perfect day starts with a leisurely breakfast and a cycling training. Then, with a fresh mind, I start working, namely, studying, researching, writing and taking action. In the afternoon, before dinner, I love to take a refreshing walk along the beach or in the mountains and sit down to read a few pages of the leisure book that I'm reading at the time.
WHAT FIVE BOOKS WOULD YOU TAKE TO HEAVEN?
A blank book in which to write my reflections
The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint Exupery)
Manual of Warrior of Light
Any very long and unread adventure book
Miles of Smiles around the World (Alvaro Neil), it's not really a book (or at least not yet) but an incredible project I would love to keep on following from heaven
ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
I could only add one thing ... a great smile from the heart for all of you.
LinkedIn group: Justice Worldwide Leadership - http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=4795244&trk=hb_side_g
- Twitter: @FrancesGalache
- Blog (in Spanish and about my bike-adventures): http://lilithyelanforadepandora.blogspot.com.es/
Mongolia Bike Challenge 2012: http://www.mongoliabikechallenge.com/
Clancy's Comment: It's been a pleasure, Frances. Love ya work!