This Week in Restoring Family Links Blog 12/07/2015 - 12/11/2015

This Week in Restoring Family Links Blog 12/07/2015 - 12/11/2015

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. This week, the Restoring Family Links Blog and Twitter highlighted Human Rights Day. Below is further information about human rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This week's news highlights Human Rights Day, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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Human Rights Day: Much to Do, Much to Celebrate

Human Rights Day: Much to Do, Much to Celebrate

Freedom from fearFreedom of speechFreedom of worshipFreedom from want. These are the four freedoms highlighted by the United Nations for this year’s Human Rights Day, a day celebrating the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year’s celebration is especially significant as it kicks-off the international organization’s year-long campaign commemorating the 50 year anniversary of the signing of the two international covenants that further enumerate the rights outlined in the Declaration.

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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.

A Day of Revolt

Story by Cody Austin, Washington Region, International Services Coordinator

Human Rights Day commemorates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed in 1948 following the horrors of WWII. Though your eyes may already have begun to glaze over, do not be deceived. It is not history. It is not diplomacy. It is a thundering cry of revolt!

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an audacious celebration of our inalienable inheritance, a daring declaration of human dignity and all that must accompany it. The anniversary of its adoption should not be an obscure listing among a litany of unknown holidays. Human Rights Day should not be a dry affair, left to stodgy diplomats in ill-fitting suits. 

The declaration is the most translated document in the world and the basis for multiple constitutions. It has ignited political, legal, and moral action across the globe. The pleas and yearnings for justice that all people experience are enunciated in plain language that anyone, even a politician, can understand. Freedom from fear, freedom from want! Freedom of speech and of belief.

To understand why Human Rights Day is a day of rebellion, one need only to read the latest headlines. The declaration’s third article:  “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”  The declaration’s seventh article: “All are equal before the law and entitled to equal protection.”  We do not need to look very hard to see those struggling for even these basic rights.  In many places today, to voice the demands of this declaration are to invite detention, torture, and worse.  To shout, “No!” to oppressors and aggressors is nothing short of revolutionary. 

The Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross are closely related to and in support of the rights protected in the Declaration. As a movement, the Red Cross also demands that the rights of soldiers, prisoners, and civilians are protected during times of war.  However, we are not a political organization. 

We exist to remind the world of their obligations to humanity and help them serve those affected by war and disaster.  Until the governments of the world fully implement these articles, we stand ready to reconnect families, provide assistance to the wounded, vaccinate children, and stop epidemics. All in the name of alleviating human suffering. 

Eleanor Roosevelt with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Eleanor Roosevelt with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

One of the declaration’s key architects was Eleanor Roosevelt, known for her famous husband as well as her work promoting the rights of African Americans, refugees, and other people marginalized by society.  She knew that the Declaration was not binding and would be difficult to enforce.  She expected a battle from those who would oppose the protection of human dignity for all people.  Why did she, and many others, fight so hard to create what was at the time simply a moral statement?  Because they knew it was just the opening salvo. They knew the Declaration was the first protest, the composition of a chant that would be sung and shouted by millions to come, until every last enumerated right is respected.  Human Rights Day isn’t just a commemoration of a diplomatic achievement; it’s the anniversary of a rebellion. 

“Where, after all, do universal rights begin? In small places close to home.  Unless they have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.” – Eleanor Roosevelt