This Week in Restoring Family Links News 12/06/2014-12/12/2014

Do you follow @intlfamilylinks (Restoring Family Links’ account) on Twitter? See an interesting article but just don’t have the time to read it? “This Week in RFL News” is a weekly blog segment that highlights and summarizes some of the news items posted by RFL’s twitter.

Human Rights Day: December 10th marked the United Nations’ Human Rights Day, which commemorates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations following World War II. The day is an opportune time to reflect on the human rights victories made since its adoption – from establishing the universality of rights for all human beings to laying the groundwork for conventions providing protection for women and children. However, it is also a day to examine the work that needs to be done to better ensure these human rights are provided. And as many news stories shared, 2014 was a horrific year for human rights violations. And while it is easy to despair while looking at the big picture, it’s also important to remember the everyday work and the small victories won by human rights defenders around the globe. By doing so, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights can be seen, not as a statement of victory, but as a hope for the future; a call to action for everyone to take a stand against impunity, violence, and inequality; a vision for what the world can become.

As a part of the Restoring Family Links team at the American Red Cross, I cannot pass on this opportunity to highlight the connections between the reconnecting families work of the Red Cross Movement and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 16 of the Declaration establishes the importance of and protections for the family unit. This basis has led to family connection and reunification to be included in several UN Conventions from the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (article 12), to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (articles 9, 10 and 22) and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrants Workers and Members of Their Families (articles 4 and 44). This makes family reconnection work not only a mandate of International Humanitarian Law, but also a human rights imperative. So to all my fellow Restoring Family Links team members, I thank you for your work, not just as a humanitarian, but also as a human rights defender.

South Sudan: As the conflict in South Sudan marks its one-year anniversary, many humanitarians are worried about a possible escalation of violence. While the rainy season provided its own unique sets of challenges for providing humanitarian assistance and protection, it also limited fighting. Now that it is over, many are worried that the conflict will escalate. This could have dire consequences for the children of South Sudan who have already endured the brunt of the conflict. Attention this week was also paid to the effects the conflict has had on the nation’s wildlife, especially its elephant herds.

And despite the rather bleak news concerning the status of the conflict, there has been relatively positive news concerning international response. After months of refusing to recognize the South Sudanese crossing its borders as refugees, the government of Sudan has finally requested the UN to recognize them as such and therefore start providing them the assistance granted to persons with refugee status. Also, as the UN continues to debate sanctions against South Sudan that could include an arms embargo (which some see as a necessary step in de-escalating the conflict), there is a positive role the US government can play in ensuring it is passed.