Human Rights Day Celebration
By Robert Bernstein
Human Rights Day is December 10 and commemorates the passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Humanist Society of Santa Barbara participated in the celebration along with the Southern California Secular Coalition and the United Nations Association.
This year also marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.
Here are some screen shots from this event.
"It is my aspiration that health finally will be seen not as a blessing to be wished for, but as a human right to be fought for." So said former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan.
Bettina Hausmann is Executive Director of the United Nations Association of the US, San Diego Chapter. She began this celebration of Human Rights Day with this quote.
We often think of human rights as the elimination of harms. But the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) also has positive affirmations.
Article 25 states: "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control."
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations on December 10, 1948. It became the law of all lands on Earth. No matter where a person lives.Following this historic act, the United Nations Assembly called upon all member countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and "to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded…"
How many Americans today are even aware of this? It seems that our government is not fulfilling its obligation if we are not all aware of it.
Nearly 100 people participated via Zoom in this celebration that included the Humanist Society of Santa Barbara.Early in the event we were shown a short video that was created on the 70th anniversary of the UDHR called "UDHR @ 70: Perspective". You can watch it here:
Eleanor Roosevelt led the effort to create the UDHR. Her grandson Ford Roosevelt participated in the celebration. He said that his grandmother felt that the UDHR was her greatest achievement.
He suggested that each of us pick an Article of the UDHR that speaks to us. Then promote it to others.Victor Schachter, Founder and President of the Foundation for the Sustainable Rule of Law Initiatives, talked about how to make the rule of law work. He advocated mediation with a skilled mediator. Active listening. Restoring relationships. The opposite of litigation which is about "beating up the other side".Litigation is impractical in many countries. He talked of the tens of millions of cases backlogged in courts just in India and in Brazil.
He helped initiate a mediation center in Bangalore, India that has mediated over 200,000 cases!
He emphasized that human rights, dispute resolution and the rule of law are inseparable.
Carly Dunn pre-recorded a statement from rural Mexico about the important work at the US-Mexico border. Notably, dealing with the caravans of refugees from Central America. The US has intervened brutally in Central America for over 150 years. Notably, during the Reagan years when the US government openly supported death squads and mercenaries. We are still reaping the effects of these policies.
Here is one summary of the brutality that Reagan delivered in El Salvador and Guatemala as reported on the news program Democracy Now:
Gerald Womaniala was a refugee from Uganda who now helps refugees adjust to life in the US. Sometimes that work involves driving refugees to jobs that he helped find for them. He started teaching refugees to drive so that they could help themselves.The final talk by Rima Nashashibi was about the prevalence of child marriage in the world today. Her organization is Global Hope 365. She claimed that child marriage was still legal in the US until 2016.In most cases it is a much older man marrying a young girl. In some cases the parents approve the child marriage which is a loophole that allows it to happen. 80% of these marriages eventually end in divorce. But in the meantime they often result in violence and sexually transmitted disease.
She went on to talk about middle school age girls being recruited as sex workers here in the US. The girls may voluntarily take the work, but they soon find that it is difficult to leave. Videos and images are made of them and they are threatened with having these presented to their families.
She gave some statistics that seemed a bit hard to believe. Including a claim that a single sex trafficker can earn $800,000 a year with just two girls working for him.
In much of the modern industrialized world, adult sex work is recognized as legitimate work and is protected and regulated by law. The US is actually an outlier. Perhaps there would be less trafficking of underage girls if the US changed these policies.
The celebration ended with a chance for everyone to hold up a candle in the Zoom window.
I invite everyone to find a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on line with a simple search. Here is a simple plain text version:
You can read it in a few minutes. Understand that these rights apply everywhere. For everyone. At all times. Spread the word that this Declaration exists. Rights are only meaningful if people know that they have them.