HAPPY WORLD HUMAN RIGHTS DAY!
Last week Thursday, I was gifted the opportunity to flex my creative muscles via an adapted and stylised presentation of the 30 Articles making up the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. You see today, 10th December 2018, marks the 70th Anniversary of the implementation of this UN drafted and adopted collection of rights, agreed upon to be the most basic and fundamental rights afforded to every human being on the planet earth…without exception! Apparently, so the story goes/suh dem seh (a phrase I will henceforth use by way of a disclaimer, in case what I share with you today turns out to be based on fake news at some future point), a group of people from around the world, appalled by the atrocities that took place during the second world war, decided to take proactive measures to ensure that human beings would never again be allowed to descend to the levels of barbarity, evil and wickedness as was seen during the six year war. Yeah right, I sense some of you thinking.
YOUNG PERCEPTIONS OF WAR!
Growing up in England, my perspective of that war was always influenced by media images of valiant Englishmen and their allies, risking their lives for the rights and freedoms of their fellow countrymen.
Each November, as a child through to my teens, I would customarily wear the purchased poppies that my whole family wore in memory of those brave souls that sacrificed their lives for a noble cause. The only bad guys in that war story were the Germans, or to be more specific, a particular group of deranged Germans called Nazis. Apparently taking the life of another was only evil if, according to the rules of war, the lives were those of the bad guys. The fact that both sides of the cass cass saw the other as the bad guys was irrelevant to those writing the history books I studied. Bloody, valiantly fought battles and atom bombings were mixed in with stifled tales of torture, sexual abuses, murder of civilians and other unclaimed acts of barbarity…on both sides. No doubt the saying that “all is fair in love and war” could well have been coined during the said conflicts.
In the aftermath of that war, an estimated 60 million human beings were dead. WWII was dubbed ‘the worst war in modern history’, by the time it ended in 1945. The United Nations emerged through unification of 58 country states, officially forming in 1948, with the primary purpose of bringing peace and upholding the rights of citizens in all lands. They drafted and agreed to the Declaration of Human Rights, the details of which most of the world’s citizens, I would hazard a guess, are oblivious. I hazard that guess on the basis that BBC World News reports (one of the few news sharing establishments I still have some level of trust in), consistently highlight unprecedented atrocities happening daily across our planet. As if on cue, as I drove home from my Human Rights presentation to the Mandeville Graduates of the Sutherland Global Microsoft Training programme, I felt a deflating blow when I tuned in to my radio to hear about the ‘alleged’ daily executions taking place in the African country of Burundi. The chilling report, as told by the BBC news correspondent, based on first hand intelligence obtained from eye witnesses and former perpetrators, stunned me. The pitch and inflections in the voice of the young sounding reporter, gave away a frustration that I presumed came from the fact that no decisive action was being taken by the UN nations, despite the submission of solid evidence to the UN leadership.
JAMAICA ON HUMAN RIGHTS?
Having become privy to and played a part in sharing the 30 human rights articles to an audience of Jamaicans, what now? Surely the scale of the global human rights breaches might suggest that those rights are destined to remain mere words on paper, while even the heads of states that are signatories to the declaration are themselves perpetrating, at worst, and turning a blind eye to, at least, gross human rights violations against their citizens. Closer to home, here in Jamaica, a modern day tropical paradise, the Tivoli Gardens ‘incident’ of 2010 still echoes a cry for justice that will ring in our ears for generations to come. Though I am considered an eternal optimist, the international and local news on any given day lends support to my concerns, that since the 1948 scripting of the declaration of human rights, matters have in fact gotten progressively worse, rather than better.
So, is it worth building the hopes of ordinary citizens by spreading the gospel of human rights to which they are entitled, yet potentially have little recourse if the state and its officers refuses to honour them? I say yes! Let the people know their rights! Armed with knowledge of what being a human being should afford them might at least empower some, and then more and more, to stand up for their individual and collective rights. Around the globe we are seeing and hearing of unrest and mounting frustrations among ordinary citizens that are saying enough is enough to leaders that have lost sight of their responsibility to serve and support all its citizens equally and fairly. The youth in particular are rising up to protest the disparities in treatment for segments of the society and blatant corruption within both government and private sectors.
HUMAN RIGHTS IN PLAIN LANGUAGE
All that said, given the energy of the youth of this world to clean up the messes of prior generations, I will do what feels right to me and proceed to sensitize my fellow Jamaicans and other world citizens to the 30 rights they have on the global stage, by virtue of the fact that they are human. The link below is to the Youth for Human Rights web page, which features a simplified version of the 30 Articles, as I shared with the young graduates.
Learn them, as one day, you may need to demand or exercise one of them, in the face of some violation. You do, after all, have the weight of the now 192 member states of the United Nations behind you. Let us trust that this is heavyweight enough when put to the tests.
As our island’s reggae icon, Bob Marley sang…”Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights!” Knowing them is the first step.