Kony 2012: Symposium on Social Activism and International Law

Kony 2012: Symposium on Social Activism and International Law

Opinio Juris is pleased to announce an online symposium addressing social activism and international law. As our readers know, Kony 2012 was a YouTube sensation, spreading faster than any video in history. Although the details are airbrushed, the central theme of the video is about international law. The key idea of the video is that the indicted fugitive Joseph Kony should be brought to justice before the International Criminal Court to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Millions of viewers who never thought about the International Criminal Court before are encouraged to embrace this new court and take on the cause of child soldiers. In the Internet age, a handful of tech-savvy twenty-somethings captivated the globe and generated a cause célèbre. Google Trends says it all: in a matter of days an issue that was completely off the radar became one of the world’s most-discussed topics.

For the next three days, we have gathered a variety of experts to discuss social activism and international law. Given the nature of the issue, we have invited experts across disciplines to discuss the topic. Among the topics that our experts are invited to discuss are the following:

1. How does the social media phenomenon affect the way people view international law?
2. What are the pros and cons of using social media to promote international law?
3. Does social activism effectively raise awareness and promote accountability?
4. What is the difference between activism and “slacktivism”?
5. How has Kony 2012 impacted the situation in Northern Uganda and the surrounding area?
6. How has Kony 2012 impacted our perception of child soldiers?
7. What does social media activism promise for the future of international law?

Kony 2012 has generated a tremendous amount of discussion, with a wide range of viewpoints. What is often overlooked is how this viral sensation has impacted international law. So let the debate begin!

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Mark Kersten

Looking forward to the posts and honoured to participate in the symposium.

With regards to KONY2012, I’m not sure that “the central theme of the video is about international law”. The film’s central them is to “stop” Joseph Kony. True, the makers of the film say they want him brought to justice, but it seems quite clear that the primary theme is about military, rather than judicial, intervention. Invisible Children has long pushed for military intervention in the region and clearly does so in their initial and follow-up videos. This, despite numerous military operations (with US assistance) not only failing, but leading to dramatic increases in violence and abductions by the LRA. Nevertheless, the latest military operation, a 5,000 strong African Union troop deployment to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, South Sudan and the Central African Republic, is being celebrated by Invisible Children and its supporters. In any case, the latest developments seem to have very little, if anything, to do with the ICC or international criminal justice more broadly.


I agree, Mark, that it’s troubling that military efforts (the very same promoted by Invisible Children) to capture Kony have resulted in increased LRA attacks, but without military intervention of some sort it’s hard to imagine how Kony and other wanted members of the LRA would be brought to the ICC. Perhaps Invisible Children should focus part of its advocacy efforts on ensuring that the military forces involved in hunting down Kony place a priority on protecting nearby communities from reprisals. Beyond that, it’s hard to see how judicial intervention can occur without first a military intervention.


[…] week, Opinio Juris has organized a symposium on social media and international law in the wake of KONY2012. There are already a number of […]