01/10/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

YouTube Users Respond to Crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Today is Human Rights Day and over the years we've seen YouTube become a platform for people all over the world to discuss issues and take action for human rights. There are individuals who use YouTube as a megaphone for social change and there are nonprofit organizations that tap the endless talent and passionate users on the site for support, allowing anybody from around the world to get involved and make a difference. This is evident in the powerful campaigning taking place on YouTube around the current crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Since August of this year, 250,000 Congolese citizens have been forced to flee their homes as the civil war between government and rebel soldiers rages on. As the death toll and refugee counts increase, nonprofit organizations have been turning to YouTube to offer a first-hand look at those affected by the violence. For example, UNICEF uses video to explore a day on the ground at one of the refugee camps in DR Congo, while Doctors Without Borders depicts the struggles of the displaced through a powerful slideshow. Two weeks ago, the UN World Food Programme posted a simple 30-second PSA about the need for food in the DR Congo -- the video has already received over 160,000 views. For users who want to contribute more than their viewership to aid in the effort, the Disasters Emergency Committee recently posted a video appeal on behalf of the UK's 13 leading charities for users to donate funds to help the refugees.

Citizens have been eager to comply, not only by donating funds but by using YouTube to urge instant action. For example this UK citizen posed a frank question to Prime Minister Gordon Brown asking why he recently spent more time talking about British celebrities than the dire situation in the DR Congo.

Video continues to serve as a powerful tool to expose incidents that threaten the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to spur individuals to exercise their freedom of speech. While it may be difficult to end human rights abuses everywhere, we can be grateful that there are organizations and citizens armed with cameras to help bring these abuses to light.

Ramya Raghavan is the Nonprofits and Activism Manager at YouTube.