24 April 2009

we are ALL human rights defenders

although i knew there was a UN declaration on human rights defenders, it was not until i had to write about it that i learned its full name: the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

(yes, the full name is a mouthful, which is probably why it is popularly known as the declaration on human rights defenders.)

the declaration is thus addressed to everyone, not just states and human rights defenders. this is made clearer in its annex:
Stressing that all members of the international community shall fulfil, jointly and separately, their solemn obligation to promote and encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction of any kind…

Acknowledging the important role of international cooperation for, and the valuable work of individuals, groups and associations in contributing to, the effective elimination of all violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms of peoples and individuals…

in other words, it is everyone's responsibility to promote and protect human rights, and anyone who does so, is a human rights defender. for this reason, the declaration does not adopt any formal definition of 'human rights defender'.

not only was i happier to be sharing this responsibility, but i was also taken aback by the difference made by a name.

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