24 November 2008

Good to speak about it. Even better to apply it!

Since the end of World War II, millions of men and women have been successfully leading the fight to defend freedom around the world, in fighting against colonisation and racism, fighting for civil rights, and fighting in favour of international justice and prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In 1948 the then UN member states adopted the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. "Never again" were the words they proclaimed at the end of a conflict that included one of the biggest genocides that humanity has ever known.

They were claiming that freedom, and physical and mental integrity for human beings must be defended everywhere, and in all circumstances. All human beings have these rights and nothing can justify depriving any category of people from enjoying them..

The sixtieth anniversary of this Declaration, that has served as the basis for all of these fights over the last decades, will be celebrated on 10 December. It will be an occasion to celebrate the progress and victories achieved, but also to measure the road ahead so that all human beings shall be "free and equal in dignity and rights", to use the words of this fundamental text.

"This anniversary is taking place in times of uncertainty" said Souhayr Belhassan, president of FIDH. "After the fall of the Berlin wall, in the 1990s, fundamental human rights were at the heart of national and international preoccupations, but during the first decade of the 2000s we see terror and misery still oppressing a large part of humanity" she added.

Yet, most national and international political leaders confirm their determination to abide by the principles inscribed in the Declaration. This may be cause for satisfaction, but there are very few who actually apply them. "That is why FIDH has decided to take a strong stance in celebrating this anniversary and give new life to this Declaration, with the watchword being "Good to talk about it. Even better to apply it", added Souhayr Belhassen.

Women and migrants, unprotected subjects

FIDH has decided to celebrate this anniversary by focusing on two fundamental groups of people whose human rights are systematically violated: women and migrants. Currently, both these groups are all too often without legal rights, regardless of where they are on earth. Yet women make up half of humanity, and there are over two hundred million migrants throughout the world. By fighting for these two groups of the world population targeted by discrimination, FIDH is seeking to reassert the universality of human rights.

Human rights defenders still in danger

FIDH will also continue defending human rights defenders who are in danger all over the world. They are thrown in prison, tortured by dictators, sometimes assassinated by private groups and States because of their endless daily fight to have the principles of the Declaration applied. The sixtieth anniversary is an opportunity to pay tribute to them and to make national leaders understand that defenders must be protected, wherever they are.

Punish the guilty

Guarantee all rights for all people, and protect the defenders who risk their lives in the pursuit of human rights offenders. Since the Declaration will not truly be respected until it is actively applied, the perpetrators of human rights violations, be they individuals, States or private players, must be held accountable.

This is why FIDH and its 155 member organisations that are dedicated to the defence of human rights, use all available channels of international justice to denounce perpetrators of crimes against humanity.

"Good to speak about it. Even better to apply it!" In both the North and the South, States and all other actors, regardless of where they are in the world, should start concretely implementing the Declaration. Although the 60th anniversary is commemorative, it should be recognised as an additional opportunity to promote its principles and demand its universal application,

Examples of activities by FIDH and its member organisations to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

FIDH is organising and participating in various events in France: a series of debates and a survey on human rights (in partnership with FNAC), a book on 60 years of fighting for human rights (in partnership with Flammarion publications and Magnum photos), the FIDH International Bureau meeting, the sixth annual gala evening, a month-long audio-visual programme on human rights (in partnership with Cinécinéma).

- In Thailand, the Union for Civil Liberty (UCL), has printed 70,000 copies of a simplified version of the Universal Declaration, in Thai, for children. A version in Burmese is also being edited.
- In the Dominican Republic, the Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (CNDH) is organising a seminar to inform the general public about human rights.
- In Peru, the Asociación pro Derechos Humanos (APRODEH) is holding a country-wide festival on the "cinema and human rights", to raise awareness about the Declaration throughout the country.
- In El Salvador, the Comisión de Derechos Humanos (CDHES) is holding meetings for victims of armed conflict and their families on the theme "United for justice: the end of impunity".
- In Nicaragua, the Centro Nicaraguense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH) is organising a parade with the theme "standing up for our rights".
- In Morocco, the Organisation marocaine des droits de l’Homme (OMDH) is holding public debates, with special attention paid to the "democratic transition".
- In Tanzania, the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHCR) is organising a group of human rights defenders who will climb Mount Kilimanjaro and put a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the summit.
- In Kenya, the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) is organising a film festival on human rights, in partnership with the French Embassy, the Alliance française, IFRA and FIDH.
- Afghanistan will be honoured in the Netherlands at a theme-specific evening organised by the Liga voor de Rechten van de Mens.
- In Belgium, a concert of Mozart will provide support for the Belgian league’s human rights activities.
Last Update 24 November 2008
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