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Human Rights 365: Every Right, Every Day, for Every One

Key Details

  • Themes
    Content Regulation / Censorship, Hate Speech, Defamation / Reputation

Article published December 10, 2014 in The Daily Star, Lebanon. [1]

On December 10, we celebrate international human rights day. This year’s theme – Human Rights 365 (HR365) – encompasses the idea that every day is Human Rights Day.

But it is difficult to even imagine HR365 given our last 365 days. This past year has been beset with conflict, insecurity and inequality, driving mass atrocities.  It is difficult to celebrate HR365 when these past 365 days have washed so many coffins onto the shore of humanity’s hopes and dreams: the outputs of nationalist conflicts and sectarian bombs; of criminal gangs and corrupt officials; of poverty; of sexual exploitation and cultural wars; of contagions of a deadly virus and of common bigotry.

Indeed, the barriers to HR 365 are multiple, and multi-layered. But they have in common selfishness, greed and abuse of power.  They are the parents who marry their 14 year-old daughter to a man four times her age.  They are the villagers who attack those who defy their interpretation of cultural norms.  They are the religious leaders spreading division and hatred.  They are armies and armed groups engaging in mass atrocities.  They are corporations exploiting the environment and parliaments passing laws that enshrine discrimination against women, gays, and other minorities.

And yet, there are many more than 365 reasons to recall that it is human rights that bind us together as a global community, belonging equally to all of us, upholding each of us.   But how do we unlock this potential so that it is a daily reality?   A number of keys can open the door to human rights everyday:

People’s participation in the public affairs of their nations and communities.  Associating and working with others; voicing hopes and views, outrage or support; voting, demanding, deciding: in other words, exercising human agency. That’s where HR 365 begins.

Each day of every year, people are acting in, on and against conflict, poverty, inequality, exclusion and alienation. Each day there are people making HR365 a lived reality by exercising their rights in defence of rights. And, they are doing so sometimes at the cost of their own lives: as journalists, health workers, judges, lawyers, women’s rights activists. They are defending sexual identity, environmental justice and trade unions.  They are farmers, workers, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, facing threats and confronting hostility for standing up for rights. Accused of working for foreign powers, of treason or sedition, of breaking community norms, laws may prevent their organizations from even registering, accessing funding, advocating or informing.  They are defending human rights every day and their protection – the protection of civil society organisations and human rights defenders – must be a key priority for HR365 to be a reality.

Free flow of information and ideas, regardless of borders without frontier.  Across mediums, including through a global, secure and trustworthy Internet: the free flow of information is not only a right; it is fundamental to the realisation of all other rights.

Stymieing information flow and censoring those seeking to communicate with and inform others – these violations of our fundamental freedoms have dramatic negative consequences for the capability of individuals and communities around the world to meet the challenges they confront.

Information about the quality of the water people drink and the land they farm; information about what social welfare programs or food support refugees are entitled to; information about contraception and birthing care to which women are universally entitled; free flow of information to reveal the facts of past or present insecurity, disappearances, killings and torture: all of this is essential to unlocking HR 365.

Free flow of information is also of fundamental importance to our collective human rights future. Climate change and hunger; population and health; genocide and mass violence: these many issues are beyond the ability of any one person, community or nation to resolve. An inter-connected global community facing up to shared challenges needs a free flow of information, speech and expression. Information is the thread that can bind us together for shared solutions in the interest of our joint future.

Recognising that power is neither spread nor shared equally and understanding how this works to impede Human Rights 365 is key: there are privileges held by some and denied to others.  Yet, each one of us, everywhere, at all times is entitled to the full range of human rights. The realization of human rights for each of us, to the exclusion of none of us, is in the interests of all of us.

For HR365 to come alive, we must demand of governments that they put their money where their mouths are: align their resources to their commitments.  Today the United Nations devotes only 3% of its annual budget to directly upholding human rights, even though human rights are one of the UN system’s three pillars. If the United Nations member states are serious about Human Rights 365, then surely its institution created to defend human rights must be granted the means to do just that.  2015 is the opportunity to correct this resource imbalance, when the world through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) commits to development it wants for all of its nations. For HR365 to spread globally, the new SDGs must deliver people-focused development that embraces human rights, peace and justice, and member states must then resource them accordingly.

No matter the human rights spaces that we occupy, with or without privilege, there are opportunities to work for HR365.  Many of us also have a key. Perhaps it is small and a little rusty but it is our key nevertheless and it means each of us can exercise our rights for rights – so that HR 365 mean human rights every day, for every right, for everyone.  That is our agency, human agency and that is where HR365 begins.


[1] Published by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (Lebanon field office) in collaboration with the Daily Star: http://issuu.com/dailystarleb/docs/human-rights-day-2014-rights365/1

Authors

Agnès Callamard

Director, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression; Special Adviser to the President, Columbia University
United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions

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