2017-12-06 / Opinion

Are We Meeting our Responsibilities for Human Rights?


Every winter Greater Brunswick PeaceWorks invites the wider community to a celebration of Human Rights Day to consider how the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights can be made real in our nation and the world. This year our gathering will be on Friday, Dec. 15 at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Brunswick.

The Universal Declaration on Human Rights was proclaimed and adopted on Dec. 10, 1948 by 48 of the 58 members of the General Assembly of the United Nations. At the time of its adoption it was hailed as a remarkable and courageous post-World War II statement that defined the meaning of human rights and fundamental freedom for all humanity irrespective of national borders. The content of this document remains as remarkable and courageous as it was in 1948 and deserves our attention to this day.

Let me quote a few paragraphs from the Preamble to the document:

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable right of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for Human Rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations . . .

I believe that the creators of the Universal Declaration (among them the U.S. delegate to the U.N. Eleanor Roosevelt) chose every word with utmost care in the hope that the words would resonate within each reader of the document as the life-long inspiration and guide that its writers intended it to be. Can I assume that the writers expected it would be widely circulated among the populations and governments of the world? Perhaps that held true at the time of its publication. But how many of us are familiar with it today? Why do you think that is so? Would the United States be a signatory to the Declaration at this time?

What about some of the other pertinent documents and/or treaties that have come out of the United Nations? In the case of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination of Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child the United States has signed on but not ratified either of these treaties. What is the reason that our elected officials have avoided and/or neglected that responsibility? Would you consider doing some research on these treaties and in turn ask your U.S. Senator and Representative about the reason for their inaction?

Should Article 1 of the Declaration

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act toward one another in a spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood” not be at the very center of our national and international deliberations and actions -- now more than ever?

As I write these words I am mindful that words often remain no more than mere words — information that the reader may or may not want or dare to internalize and in turn respond to. I wonder if my words are moving you to explore and act on the subject of Universal Human Rights?

I encourage the readers of this article to let curiosity and empathy guide each of you to re-read the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Please share your knowledge as well as questions with family and friends and, of course, let our elected officials know that this is something you care deeply about. From there we will be able to move forward to a deeper understanding of the actions required from each us to insure that the Universal Resolution is more than words.

In closing I want to re-extend PeaceWorks’ invitation to the communities of Brunswick and surrounding towns to join in our annual recognition of Human Rights Day. This year’s event will be combined with a celebration of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Award to International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons.

Christine A. DeTroy is a member of PeaceWorks. She lives in Brunswick.

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