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Blending Passion and Partnership with Human Rights
By Susan J. Zipp
UN Under-Secretary General Kiyo Akasaka chaired the opening and closing sessions of the 2008 UN DPI-NGO conference at UNESCO headquarters in Paris with encouragement for people everywhere to speak out and take action in support of universal human rights. He added that the gravest error is indifference - doing nothing when we see people suffering.
This conference honored the founding of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights sixty years ago in Paris and included special keynote speakers who were motivated by Eleanor Roosevelt to join the UDHR preparation process and signing in 1948.
Participants and Human Rights pioneers convened in Paris for passionate and profound dialogues on the responsibilty to protect, violations of human rights, and government accountability. One hundred eighty countries and 310 NGOs were represented.
Discussions ranged from the International Criminal Court (ICC) where individuals are judged for war crimes and crimes against humanity, to the Earth Charter, a source of prevention by cultivating a respect for life and a culture of peace. Additional topics addressed child soldiers, violence against women as war crimes, and overcoming discrimination to realize human rights and dignity for all, held during three days of plenery, round-table and small group dialogues, and informal conversations between sessions.
The closing ceremony was highlighted with the remarkable interpretation of the words "universal", "declaration" and non-governmental" by the Ambassador of France Stephane Hessel, who at 90 reflected on his participation in the entire 1948 UDHR process. "Universal" was included in the UDHR along with 30 articles and a number of "where-as" to clearly embrace all of the world. "Declaration represents the spirit to fight against oppression, using the voice of the people. And "Non-Governmental" is found in article 71 of the UN Charter to signify the representation of not only governments, but the value, dignity and respect of all people. Mr. Hessel praised civil society for having the courage of our convictions, reminding us that nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something."
The upbeat mood was taken to a higher level with the video-cast of Ingrid Betancourt live from UN Headquarters. In 2002 while a candidate for president of Columbia she was kidnapped and held prisoner for nearly 7 years. Her release in July 2008 left her traumatized and unaware of the strategy of fear which overtook the world. With relief and peace reflected in her face, Ms. Betancourt shared her experience of being silenced and isolated, and reminded us of the right we all have in using the power of our voices.
Dynamic energy and vision emerged from the meetings and expanded the hearts and minds of all who attended. It is fundamental to have the courage to continue advancing the principles and values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Our mission now is to live true to our mission and share this passion with everyone we meet.
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Susan J. Zipp is vice president of UNA-SF, an advisor to the Communications Coordination Committee for the UN, and DPI - ECOSOC representative for the Association of World Citizens. Her website www.EmpowerTheUN.org has recently been upgraded to feature a free networking resource for all groups and individuals. Join this network and Empower the UN with the Voice of the People! To contact Susan directly, please write: email@example.com