Here is an excerpt from President Obama’s declaration of Human Rights Day and Human Rights Week, which we observe this week:
“With the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly affirmed the eternal truths that all people have the right to liberty, equality, and justice under the law. On Human Rights Day and during Human Rights Week, we celebrate our fundamental freedoms and renew our commitment to upholding and advancing human dignity.
The human race reflects a myriad of vibrant cultures and unique identities, yet we are united by the innate liberties that are our common birthright. The rights to assemble peacefully, to speak and worship as we please, and to determine our own destinies know no borders. All people should live free from the threat of extrajudicial killing, torture, oppression, and discrimination, regardless of gender, race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disability. Dictators seek to constrain these liberties through repressive laws and blunt force, but hope cannot be imprisoned and aspirations cannot be killed. We are reminded of this when demonstrators brave bullets and batons to sound the call for reform, when young women dare to go to school despite prohibitions, and when same-sex couples refuse to be told whom to love. The past year saw extraordinary change in the Middle East and North Africa as square by square, town by town, country by country, people rose up to demand their human rights. Around the world, we witnessed significant progress in consolidating democracy and expanding freedoms, often facilitated by critical assistance from the international community. In the 63 years since the global community came together in support of human dignity and adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, our futures have grown increasingly interconnected. We have a stake not only in the stability of nations, but also in the welfare of individuals. On this anniversary, we recognize human rights as universal, and we stand with all those who reach for the dream of a free, just, and equal world.”
IN 2011, HUMAN RIGHTS WENT VIRAL!
Human rights “went viral” in 2011 thanks to the exponential growth of social media on the Internet, the UN rights commissioner, Navi Pillay, said Friday. “2011 has been an extraordinary year for human rights (thanks to) the dynamic and irrepressible surge of social media.” “Although we must mourn the lives of many … we also have cause to celebrate,” Pillay said in a statement ahead of International Human Rights Day, observed Saturday, December 10.
“In Tunis and Cairo, Benghazi (Libya) and Dara’a (Syria), and later on — albeit in a very different context — in Madrid, New York, London, Santiago and elsewhere, millions of people from all walks of life have mobilized to make their own demands for human dignity,” she said. “The results have been startling…. We have already seen peaceful and successful elections in Tunisia and, earlier this week, in Egypt — where the turnout for the first truly democratic elections there for decades has exceeded everybody’s expectations, despite the shocking upsurge in violence in Tahrir Square,” she said. “Governments no longer hold the ability to monopolize the distribution of information and censor what it says…. Wherever it happens, you can now guarantee it will be tweeted on Twitter, posted on Facebook, broadcast on YouTube, and uploaded onto the Internet,” Pillay said.
For International Human Rights Day she exhorted “everyone, everywhere” to join the Commission’s social media campaign “to help more people know, demand and defend their human rights. The campaign on Facebook/Twitter and their Chinese equivalent Weibo is aimed at making people aware of the articles of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As of Friday, these pages had received eight million visits, including more than six million on Weibo, according to the United Nations. “It is a campaign that should be maintained so long as human rights abuses continue,” Pillay said.
It required brave persons to spread the word on the internet, as well as participate in demonstrations, to express their wants and demands for freedom from opression. The world has citizens who are not safe in their own countries; impure water, little food, housing, and many places that use child labor. We wouldn’t want our grandchildren to work in a factory rather than go to school. We must hope that Human Rights Week will open our eyes to the needs of our neighbors – regardless of where they live. World leaders should treat their people the way they want to be treated. Thanks to the technological advances that have created awareness and improvements for Human Rights, and will continue to do so in the coming year.
Sources: USEmbassy.gov; Yahoo News