How many of you know what Dec. 10 signifies? International human rights laws largely stem from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This document was adopted in 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly after the extreme atrocities experienced in World War II and sets forth guidelines to protect and enhance the lives of all human beings.
The Assembly set forth a resolution in 1950 inviting all states and interested organizations to observe this date each year as Human Rights Day. Drafted by representatives from different cultural and legal backgrounds from regions all over the world, it was intended to define fundamental human rights to be universally protected. It seems to be in need of some rereading, I think.
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world; Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people …”
And, here we are, engaged in a daily struggle for not only the rights set forth at an international level but by our very own Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Further, in the U.S. Bill of Rights, “Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Just as every day should be considered Earth Day and every day Thanksgiving (to be grateful every day), so should every day be considered Human Rights Day. But I encourage you to use this time to reaffirm the notion that all beings have a right to enough to eat, to live in safety from abuse and prejudice and to pursue whatever life they choose so long as it does not harm others.
Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home — so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. ... Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.
“This year, Human Rights Day calls on everyone to stand up for someone’s rights!” the United Nations says on its website. “Many of us are fearful about the way the world is heading. Disrespect for basic human rights continues to be widespread in all parts of the globe. Extremist movements subject people to horrific violence. Messages of intolerance and hatred prey on our fears.
“We must reaffirm our common humanity. Wherever we are, we can make a real difference. In the street, in school, at work, in public transport; in the voting booth, on social media.
“The time for this is now. ‘We the peoples’ can take a stand for rights. And together, we can take a stand for more humanity.
“It starts with each of us. Step forward and defend the rights of a refugee or migrant, a person with disabilities, an LGBT person, a woman, a child, indigenous peoples, a minority group, or anyone else at risk of discrimination or violence.” (http://bit.ly/19f9uJN)
Many of us are stricken with the desire to make a difference for the better of all. This site has many good ideas such as:
▪ Read the Declaration of Human Rights and share it; make a video of yourself and others discussing it and then post it.
▪ If you see someone being harassed or bullied, stand with them: Combat myths with facts; challenge harmful stereotypes.
▪ Speak up for tolerance and against prejudice. Keep yourself in check, challenge your own views and prejudices.
▪ Consider the human rights track record of companies before doing your shopping.
▪ Talk to your children about human rights and point out positive and diverse role models.
Celebrate International Human Rights Day, Saturday, Dec. 10. Celebrate humanity.
Dianne Brooke’s column appears weekly and is special to The Cambrian.