guide-to: Human Rights Day 2010
Today marks the 62nd annual Human Rights Day across the globe.
In 1948, the founding members of the UN came together to create the “Universal Declaration on Human Rights,” the world’s first formal proclamation of the rights shared by all people throughout the world. Soon after, December 10th was named “Human Rights Day” to celebrate the creation of the world’s most translated document and to remind us all that things like access to clean water is a fundamental, basic right. A right that is, unfortunately, not afforded to everyone.
While general awareness is certainly the foundation to bringing an end to human rights abuses, it is often the people we seldom hear about who are truly working to bring an end to problems worldwide. The theme of Human Rights Day 2010 is “human rights defenders who act to end discrimination.” Discrimination can take many forms, from racism to ageism to stigmatizing people with HIV. Today we recognize people who have devoted themselves to speaking out against discrimination, many times doing so despite the risk to themselves or their families.
Liu Xiaobo and His Empty Chair
Another key element of Human Rights Day is the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize. This year’s recipient is Liu Xiaobo, who is being recognized for his “non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.” However, for the first time in 74 years, no one will be present to officially accept the prestigious award. Xiaobo is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence for proposing democratic reforms to China’s one-party system. To bring attention to his absence, the ceremony in Oslo included an empty chair meant for Xiaobo as well as a standing ovation to the noticeably absent winner. Furthermore, China has forbid any members of his family from accepting the award on his behalf and networks airing the ceremony were blocked during the hour that the broadcast would have taken place.
This is certainly frustrating to human rights supporters worldwide. Here’s how you can channel your frustration over injustice no matter where you are:
- Write for Rights: Amnesty International has organized a letter writing campaign called, Write for Rights. Beginning on December 4th, people around the world have signed up to write letters to leaders to support human rights and demand that freedom be granted to political prisoners. Egyptian novelist Musaad Abu Fagr credits Amnesty International’s global write-a-thon for his release in July 2010.
- Falling Whistles: In the Democratic Republic of Congo child soldiers that are too small to carry guns are often armed with whistles and posted on the front lines to distract the enemy. The organization Falling Whistles was founded to fight for peace in Congo and turn the weapon of a whistle into a voice for change. They’re encouraging supporters to give away their whistles on Human Rights Day and spread the word.
- One Million Voices for Iran: This organization has gathered art, music, poetry, film and photography for their Human Rights Day Arts Showcase. The goal is to highlight the human rights issues happening now in Iran. The group’s wider purpose is to collect one million signatures on a petition to demand global sanctions against Iran for their human rights abuses and demand the release of political prisoners.
- Film Festivals: Both Warsaw, Poland and Mumbai, India will host film festivals to draw attention to human rights. If you’re there, check out the 10th annual Watch Docs Human Rights Film Festival in Warsaw, Poland, and the Flashpoint Human Rights film festival in Mumbai, India.
- A Museum in Taiwan: A new museum is opening at a former detention center, highlighting abuses during Taiwan’s martial law period from 1949-1987, known as the “White Terror.” Lu Hong Shu-nu, whose husband Lu Guo-min was a political prisoner, donated her husband’s documents to the exhibit because “she wants people to know that Taiwan’s democracy is built on the suffering of many human rights activists,” according to Taiwan Today.
Want to learn more? Visit the website of the “Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights” – (it’s not as scary as it sounds)
Want to do something to help? Join an Amnesty International letter writing campaign – you can choose your cause by issue or by country. Also, take part in our project, I AM THIS LAND, to celebrate diversity at www.iamthisland.org.
One Response to “guide-to: Human Rights Day 2010”
mr. j says:
Posted: December 13, 2010 at 4:05 PM
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