Human Rights Day Turns Sixty

The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights turns sixty on December 10, 2008. Last year on Human Rights Day, the United Nations Secretary General launched a year-long UN system-wide advocacy campaign “Dignity and Justice for All of Us” to mark this significant milestone. The campaign aimed to increase knowledge and awareness of human rights among the largest number of rights holders so that they can claim and enjoy their rights. This is significant not just because the community of states and nations has failed to live up to the universal declaration made against all odds in recognition that “fundamental rights and freedoms are inalienable and inherent to all human beings, that every one of us is born free and equal,” but more so because the promise of dignity and justice is far from being realized for everyone, not just for those caught in war and conflict situations but even those living in perceived peaceful democracies. 

Under the aegis of this global campaign, everyone has a role to ensure that the demand for ‘dignity and justice for all of us’ leads to an action that exposes and demolishes all forms of injustice and cruelty in any system including Governance and social interactions. As the people of the world yearn for a greater degree of democracy, states have become more authoritarian; and governments have become more insecure and hence more militaristic in its policies. The concept of human rights is now mired in a lexicon of a new world order in the war against terror. Yet it is in the realization and implementation of true human rights, that the roots of primary and secondary violence are neutralized. Therefore what does human rights day mean when majority of people in the world are still deprived of their most basic fundamental rights; and government continue to function in an unaccountable manner? There is very little to celebrate about human rights today! Nonetheless, it’s a good for people like you and me to ponder, reflect and decide the fate of our rights and the dignity and justice for all of us. 

Perhaps we must begin with what we have. And what we have is silence, the kind of silence that strips away our humanity. On this day, let us decide to start our transformation by turning this passive silence into an active silence of protest - a silence embedded in the struggle for the recovery of our dignity and justice. Let our silence no longer symbolize complacency and acceptance for the status quo, but let this silence speak out the unspoken yearning to be fully human and let this silence symbolize the beginning of a new consciousness that demands and works for an alternative world that is rooted in the values of a shared humanity……