I would like to share just a few words on my personal perspective on human rights education, and representing Youth for Human Rights International, to contribute to this discussion today, the 70th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
I live and work in England as a principal in a software engineering company, and I am also honoured to be an Ambassador for Youth for Human Rights International.
For those that do not know, the purpose of Youth for Human Rights is –
To teach youth about human rights, specifically the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and to inspire them to become valuable advocates for tolerance and peace.
Children are the future. They need to know their human rights and know that they must take responsibility to protect themselves and their peers. As they become aware and active in this cause, the message travels far and wide.
And, someday, universal human rights will be a fact, and not just an idealistic dream.
The charter of Youth for Human Rights International is to forward the aims of the UN as it relates to human rights –
“that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights “be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded, principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories”.
with simple yet empowering, high-quality human rights education materials for youth, teachers, officials – and indeed anyone that wishes to make our society a more humane and just place for all.
I would like to share with you the particular video that first inspired me personally to help YHRI and this cause of human rights education:
“Is this still happening today?”
It was this simple question that inspired me.
As the answer is, sadly, yes, it is.
My software business activity first took me to India almost 20 years ago now, where I saw for myself, the challenges that people faced in basic human rights.
And seeing mans’ capacity for inhumanity to man first-hand left a deep and lasting impression on me.
When we got YHRI going in South Asia we found that there were thousands of like-minded people, who want to make a difference, who want to see human rights conditions change.
These are lawyers, students, police officers, domestic workers, social workers, teachers, professors and government staff – all walks of life, united in the common purpose of changing conditions in society for the better.
YHRI has focussed on creating high-quality human rights educational materials for this very purpose.
And we have had literally thousands if not tens of thousands of people across the South Asia region request these materials online through our website. And these had been sent out, free of charge, to every single person and group.
And so, we focussed on following up with those interested people, connecting, and working together, United as a team, to spread the message of human rights.
I could share many specific stories of the individual successes that we have had in South Asia, such as the Army officer who single handily changed human rights conditions in his sector of Kashmir in 2010 and went on to share his methods with Indian Army HQ.
However, sadly time constrains how much I can cover here today.
One brief aside I am proud to share, is, I was actually in Guatemala when I finished preparing this short talk, and where I was very proud to see my own daughter, now a young adult, take up the banner of YHRI as the National Director in Guatemala, where she now lives!
And, in Guatemala, they are currently delivering a human rights training program to thousands of police officers across the entire country, just as a starter!
What I would like to say in closing, is that what I have seen for myself over the last decade, particularly in Nepal, is the huge strides forward that can be made in human rights awareness and standards, just with the simple focus on making people, and particularly young people, aware of the rights that are enshrined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
Yes, there are great challenges, and yes, there is a lot more to do, but I believe that where people of good will – and young people in particular – put their mind to it, conditions can be changed.
This is a credit to all of the people of good will who have dedicated themselves to this vital work of making the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights a reality, and not an idealistic dream.
Thank you very much!