Amal Clooney with Steve Pemberton at the WorkHuman 2018 conference in Austin.

By Laura Lorek
Publisher Silicon Hills News

Young people are demanding change in society, said Amal Clooney, an international and human rights lawyer.

Eleven-year-old children are speaking out at the March for Our Lives event and companies are beginning to take notice and make changes, Clooney said, during the closing keynote last week at the WorkHuman 2018 conference in Austin. She attended March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago and she is inspired by their efforts.

“With the gun control issue, you had companies stepping in as well and saying yes, we’re a corporation but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a stand,” Clooney said.

She mentioned Dick’s Sporting Goods banning the sale of assault rifles. And both Wal-Mart and Dick’s raised the minimum gun purchasing age to 21. Amal and her husband, Actor and Activist George Clooney, donated $500,000 to the organizers of March for Our Lives.

“Companies are part of this debate,” Clooney said. “Companies can move things forward in our society.”

Companies and individuals can make a difference in demanding change in the world, Clooney said during a chat with Steve Pemberton, author of A Chance in the World and Chief People Officer of Globoforce, which sponsors the annual WorkHuman conference.

Clooney felt compelled to make a change. She was a corporate attorney when she switched to become a human rights attorney. She took a huge pay cut. And as part of the change, she moved from New York to The Hague for a United Nations investigation and then she moved to a bunker in Lebanon for another UN investigation. A lot of her family and friends questioned her decision, but ultimately she did what she thought was right, she said.

“Forge your own path,” Clooney said.

A lot of Clooney’s work is “unglamorous” involving big binders of material and highlighters with her sitting behind her desk with glasses on. She’s also writing a book “A right to a fair trial in international law.” She joked that it wasn’t exactly a page-turner. Clooney, a practicing attorney at Doughty Street Chambers in London and a visiting professor at Columbia Law School, advocates for neglected and exploited groups. Clooney sued members of Isis for committing genocide and acts of kidnapping, rape and violence against Yazidi women.

“Unfortunately, I see a decline in free speech and an increase in hate speech and a tolerance for hate speech,” Clooney said.

There are more journalists in prison than ever before, Clooney said.

At the same time, there is hateful speech emanating from the White House, she said.

“Where you have Mexicans called rapists, African countries called shitholes, a celebration of the idea that you can grab women’s genitals without their consent, you have white supremacists who have been called very fine people and the idea making religion a way to prohibit entry to the United States. That’s hateful speech coming from those who should be setting a much better example,” Clooney said.

It’s shocking that there is not more outrage, Clooney said.

“What leaders of the free world say is going to send a message to others about what is acceptable behavior,” Clooney said.

Amal Clooney and Steve Pemberton at the WorkHuman 2018 conference in Austin.

In 2016, the Clooneys established the Clooney Foundation for Justice to respond to some of the big problems the world is facing. They set up schools in Lebanon to help refugees. One in four people in Lebanon is a Syrian refugee, Clooney said.

They also brought a young Yazidi man to a small town in Kentucky to live in their home there. Her 84-year-old father in law slept on the couch for months at the house to make sure the young man got acclimated to his new environment. Now he’s studying at the University of Chicago.

“We want to be able to scale that,” Clooney said.

The Clooneys are also developing a Trial Watch Project to monitor and report on trials around the world that might violate human rights.

“Our approach with all of the projects in the foundation is to partner with the private sector,” Clooney said. “It’s the private sector that has all this talent.”

They partnered with Google and HP for the Lebanese school project, she said.

For Trial Watch, the foundation partnered with Microsoft to develop an app, Clooney said.

Overall, the world is headed a good direction, Clooney said. Her parents named her Amal, which means hope in Arabic and so she’s destined to be an optimist, she said.