This past Wednesday (May 7th) Sentebale celebrated their 10th anniversary in a grand affair at the Dorchester Hotel Park Lane in London. Sentebale has done much good in the past decade. You can’t discount the difference Prince Harry and Prince Seesio have made in the lives of Lesotho youth. And now Harry is looking to expand their work to impoverished youth in other countries. (He recently took a private trip to Botswana apparently to scout out opportunities for Sentebale to do work there.)
Sentebale is especially remarkable as it is Harry’s own charity. It’s part of a royal’s job description to participate in and be patrons of charities. But you can see his true dedication to his when he goes above and beyond such as walking to the South Pole with Walking With The Wounded. Or, in this case, founding his own organization at the tender age of 20. He deserves praise and respect for that. However, I’ve been disappointed as of late with some choices this organization has made in terms of whose support they accept.
I wrote last fall about Harry attending a dinner in honor of Sentebale hosted by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoumwas, vice-president and prime minster of the UAE and ruler of Dubai. Dubai does not a have great record for human rights or equality for women. I imagine the $1 million the Sheikh raised for Sentebale provided little consolation for the victims of sexual assault who have been treated with injustice and cruelty by the UAE’s government.
This week, Sentebale’s celebration party was held at a Dorchester hotel. The Dorchester Collection of hotels has recently become the focus of an international boycott including support from many notable celebrities such as Stephen Fry and Sir Richard Branson. The boycott stems from the company’s financial ties to Brunei’s finance ministry. Its sultanate has recently enacted severe Sharia law in his nation. Cruel punishments such as public stoning for “crimes” like homosexuality and adultery are now in play in Brunei. It is a horrible violation of basic human rights.
Now it is quite possible (and likely) that the Sentebale party was booked long before this boycott began. However, I think it would behoove the organization to speak publicly about their involvement and the crimes being committed by Brunei. It is difficult to stomach such a noble charity remaining silent while others, such as Richard Branson whose family has been close to both Princes Harry and William since they were children, stand up and demand justice. In fact, Branson said “No @Virgin employee, nor our family, will stay at Dorchester Hotels until the Sultan abides by basic human rights.” And Sentebale can say nothing?
This reminds me of the public outcry over the apparent hypocrisy of Harry and William launching new Tusk Trust initiatives days after returning from a hunting trip. Shortly after, a (very old) photo of Harry standing proudly over a dead wildebeest was released to more outrage. Granted, both of those hunting trips were perfectly legal but so was elephant hunting when William’s forefathers first took to Africa, helping lead to the animal’s current precarious status. For them to make no comment on people’s outrage at the contrast of their actions versus their words was disheartening.
I believe Harry and his brother are good people at heart and absolutely use their positions to do good work. But when they stay silent while people criticize them for seemingly hypocritical actions, it detracts from their good efforts. It smacks of privilege and the ability to pick and choose your concerns. Accepting money – or in the case of the party at the Dorchester – giving money to people and countries who commit human rights violations ultimately goes against the very wrongs Sentebale is trying to right.
So what say you, HRH? Do you care about the public’s concerns and anger or can we only expect you to continue to have a tin ear to injustices that don’t fit into your own agenda?