16 Jul 2018 – A Year for Human Rights Defenders
On 10 December 1948, the United Nations General Assembly in Paris promulgated The Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.
The Declaration consists of 30 articles elaborating an individual’s rights which have been incorporated in subsequent international treaties, contracts, regional human rights instruments, national constitutions, and other laws. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights holds the Guinness World Record as the world’s most translated document, in over 500 languages.
However, the Declaration has been increasingly under attack by governments and other actors trying to reduce it’s scope and questioning it’s relevance. To highlight what the Universal Declaration means for people in their everyday lives, the UN Human Rights has launched a year-long campaign titled #StandUp4HumanRights which will culminate on 10 December 2018, the day the World will celebrate the Declaration’s 70th anniversary.
The anniversary is a chance for the world to celebrate the gift of the Universal Declaration and to help reaffirm the enduring human rights principles and standards it has helped establish.
Human Rights Defenders In Peril:
In many countries of the world, community leaders, lawyers, journalists, civil society actors and other human rights defenders are facing unprecedented levels of persecution, intimidation and violence as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is undermined and ignored. Many human rights organizations are prevented from carrying out their work, banned or expelled from certain countries. An increasing number of governments are trying to prevent the International Criminal Court and the Human Rights Council from fulfilling their mission.
To address the concerns of the Human Rights Defenders, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the the ‘United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders’ in 1998. It aims to provide support and protection to human rights defenders (HRDs) in the context of their work and goes beyond the defenders outlining that every citizen has a role in promoting and protecting the human rights of all.
In recent years, the human rights defenders all over the world were subjected to an increased level of intimidation and threats. In 2017, 197 environmental activists were murdered in the world for their work. In 2016, 281 people killed for defending human rights, up from 156 in 2015.
2018 marks the 20-year anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development – Forum Asia believes that it is important to raise greater awareness about the UN Declaration On Human Rights Defenders. Particularly in Asia, there is limited access and visibility of the declaration and some people might not be aware that they are considered a ‘human rights defender’, which entitles them specific rights, as well as accords them certain responsibilities.
Forum Asia has published a number of posters to raise the awareness of the declaration in Asia:
The United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst has published a concept note where he stated that the 20th anniversary of the Declaration of the Human Rights Defenders should serve an opportunity to make the Declaration more visible and more accessible to everyone. It should also be an occasion to remember and celebrate those who dedicate their lives to the defence of human rights.