Rights Affirmed

Today has a broader significance than just my birthday, of course. December tenth is also Human Rights Day. Today it is important, as it is every day, to reflect on the fact that billions in this world live without basic needs and freedoms and to do all we can to help those less fortunate than us (and to work to retain our own rights). One simple and influential way to contribute to the human rights movement is to take part in Amnesty International‘s Write for Rights!, a global letter-writing marathon “held annually to mark the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed on 10 December 1948.”

“Everyone can participate. It all begins with people just like you taking a few minutes to write a short letter, fax or email on behalf of individuals whose human rights are currently being violated.” (AI)

Directly related to this, a new study by UNICEF informs us that extreme poverty threatens the lives of more than a billion children (half the world’s under-18 population) around the world.

“UNICEF’s annual report said that more than half of the world’s under-18s were affected by poverty in one way or another, and in effect being denied the basic rights of childhood.
More than one billion children do not have access to at least one of seven commodities deemed essential: shelter, water, sanitation, schooling, information, health care and food, according to “The State of the World’s Children” report, launched Thursday in London.
UNICEF pointed the finger at governments for making things worse, for example by choosing to go to war, and for failing to do enough to alleviate the already existing problems.
“Childhood is under threat, not for mysterious reasons that strain our imaginations, but because of deliberate choices made by governments and others in power. Poverty doesn’t persist because of nothing, war doesn’t emerge from nowhere, HIV doesn’t spread by choice of its own,” said Carole Bellamy, executive director of UNICEF.

Despite signing the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, many governments are failing to fulfil its principles, the report also claims.
“When half the world’s children are growing up hungry and unhealthy, when schools have become targets and whole villages are being emptied by AIDS, we’ve failed to deliver on the promise of childhood,” Bellamy added.
UNICEF said the world must pay attention, for if childhood was threatened, so was the future of many nations.” (CBC)

There are real, concrete failings that are causing rights and needs to go unfulfilled, and a large portion of the blame must fall upon our wealthy, western shoulders. As this same article details,

“Thirty years ago, rich countries had a plan to combat poverty, which former Canadian prime minister Lester B. Pearson helped formulate.
It said developed countries should commit 0.7 per cent of their gross national product (GNP) to foreign aid.
Canada is far from that goal, currently giving less than half the target. The United States gives even less.”

Isn’t it time to put pressure on our governments to live up to our global commitments and help to alleviate the suffering of the less fortunate? I firmly believe so and my votes and my voice will reflect this.

In more positive rights-related news, the Canadian government has taken another step toward ensuring equal rights for people who wish to have same-sex marriages. Yesterday our supreme court gave the go-ahead to passing a bill giving gays and lesbians the legal right to marry. I applaud this decision and look forward to the day when true equality of relationships and love is embraced by our government and the people of Canada. We still have a long way to go, but I have hope we can transform our society to be more just, open and free.

3 comments on “Rights Affirmed

  1. Most excellent! I only wish that my country could get it's head out of it's a-hem long enough to follow suit and then get onto more important matters. :o)

  2. Awesome, glad to hear it. It'll be like 10-20 years till the USA can fathom doing that, there's alot of stubborn old assholes that need to come out of office first. :/

  3. Bug and Allison, I certainly do think it's a shame that the US has become so stagnant when it comes to asserting human and equal rights. With the evangelists running amuck I won't hold my breath for change anytime soon. Even 20 years seems hopeful to me, but perhaps the coming recession will help get more leftists in power.

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