10 December, 2008

Happy 60th Birthday Universal Declaration of Human Rights!

As we look back on 60 years of striving to define and defend human rights - it's interesting to me that in the history of our world so many of the rights spelled out in the Declaration are repeatedly ignored. Call me the cynic, but it should be understood (or said) that these rights are for all people at all times, not just the times your country (or the global community) finds it convenient or beneficial to uphold them.

Today:
- 27 million+ people are enslaved
- girls are being "sold" into forced marriages
- millions of women around the world cannot deliver their children safely
- 1 and 4 women will be raped or sexually abused
- millions of people are displaced due to wars and conflict and illegal seizure of land
- people around the world suffer from religious persecution. countless numbers of people are sitting in prison, have been tortured, and have lost everything because of their religious beliefs
- acts of genocide are being committed in the DRC, Darfur, and other places around the world
- many elections are shams. people are bullied, beaten and denied the right to vote. oppositions parties and candidates are tortured or disappear all together.

A Declaration is only as good as it is carried out. I'm sure in 1948 (right around they gave away that "uninhabited" country to Israel) The UN and its members thought this was a good idea. And we do need bases for things - we need a place to say "this is ok" and "this is wrong" - but, it's one thing to say "everyone has the right to free speech" and enough thing to attach consequences to any country that impedes the free speech of its citizen.

Here is a movie that explains the UDHR. It's pretty interesting and well worth your 5 minutes:

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Youth for Human Rights
attempts to educate children about what the UDHR are. Unless someone knows their rights they cannot petition for them. And the first step in education is spreading the word. I like this PSA - there is one for each Right.

For some history on the UDHR go here for Amnesty's take or here for The Guardian's video.

Or go to Amazon and order Humanite: John Humphrey's Alternative Account of Human Rights.Written, mainly, from John Humphrey's (who is chiefly responsible for the UDHR) journals the books tracks the history of human rights, Humphrey's philosophy that helped to shape them, and how that still applies to us (go here to read snippets of the book).

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