Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Human Rights: 65 years on

Article I of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

It is 65 years since the declaration was adopted by the UN General Assembly as the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are essentially entitled. It is thus sad to see freedom, equality, dignity and other basic rights still lacking in so many of our region’s countries.

Human Rights is this year’s theme of Blog Action Day when thousands of bloggers -- bloggers, podcasters, photographers, graphic designers, cartoonists, data geeks, tumblers and social media types -- from all over the world come together to talk about one important issue.

Previously, Blog Action Day focused on such issues as the Environment (2007), Poverty (2008), Climate Change (2009), Water (2010), Food (2011) and the Power of We (2012).

It is perhaps coincidental, but there has rarely been a time when human rights are so needed, whether in the Levant or globally. It is as if humans have lost their humanity to react to the events unfolding around them.

The upheavals in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region since January 2010 – including Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen and chiefly Syria -- have put paid to human rights. And in Palestine, they have been flouted throughout the past 65 years.

According to the 1948 Universal Declaration, “Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible…

“International human rights law lays down obligations of Governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups…

“Human rights are inalienable. They should not be taken away, except in specific situations and according to due process. For example, the right to liberty may be restricted if a person is found guilty of a crime by a court of law.

“All human rights are indivisible, whether they are civil and political rights, such as the right to life, equality before the law and freedom of expression; economic, social and cultural rights, such as the rights to work, social security and education, or collective rights, such as the rights to development and self-determination, are indivisible, interrelated and interdependent. The improvement of one right facilitates advancement of the others. Likewise, the deprivation of one right adversely affects the others…

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

“Human rights entail both rights and obligations. States assume obligations and duties under international law to respect, to protect and to fulfill human rights. The obligation to respect means that States must refrain from interfering with or curtailing the enjoyment of human rights. The obligation to protect requires States to protect individuals and groups against human rights abuses. The obligation to fulfill means that States must take positive action to facilitate the enjoyment of basic human rights. At the individual level, while we are entitled our human rights, we should also respect the human rights of others.”

The UN General Assembly proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights “as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.”

Reading through the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration, I didn’t find a single one being upheld in either Palestine or Syria among others. Can you?

Isn’t it time we put back the Rights in Human?

Previous Blog Action Day posts:

Food for thought -- October 16, 2011

A bucket of water -- October 15, 2010