HUMAN RIGHTS DAY - DECEMBER 10
KEY FACTS AND LINKS
"...recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world."
--Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights--
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
- Human Rights Day is celebrated every December 10, the anniversary day of the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 by members of the United Nations as a reaction to the horrors of World War II. The principal drafter of the UDHR was the Canadian law professor John Humphrey of McGill University.
- Although not in itself legally binding, the Declaration was followed by two Conventions adopted in 1976: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Together these three documents are known as the International Bill of Rights.
- Many other Human Rights Instruments deal with specific topics: women, children, indigenous peoples, the disabled, slavery, torture, immigrants and migrants, among others.
- Enforcement depends largely on moral suasion, the force of public opinion and the extent to which the provisions have been incorporated into domestic laws. Most treaties have monitoring and reporting mechanisms. Certain regional institutions such as the European Court of Human Rights have great political and legal authority, and their decisions are almost always implemented.
- The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was adopted in 1982 and protects both civil liberties and group rights, including those of language.
- Some proponents categorize three generations of human rights: first-generation civil and political rights (right to life and political participation), second-generation economic, social and cultural rights (right to subsistence) and third-generation solidarity rights (right to peace, right to clean environment). The third generation is the most debated and lacks both legal and political recognition.
- Human rights norms evolve and become more binding over time as they are more widely accepted and adhered to by the international community. One of the biggest breakthroughs in recent time has been the creation of the International Criminal Court which entered into force July 1, 2002 and is the first permanent international tribunal for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.
- The United Nations Commission on Human Rights was established in1946 to monitor international human rights standards and as a forum for its UN member states. The Commission includes many countries with appalling human rights records and has received growing criticism. The recent UN Summit in September discussed the option of abolishing the present Commission and replacing it with a more effective and legitimate Human Rights Council. This is still under negotiation.
- The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was established in 1993. The High Commissioner performs his/her duties under the direction and authority of the Secretary-General and has a broad mandate to promote and protect all human rights: civic, political, economic, social and cultural. The distinguished Canadian jurist Louise Arbour was appointed High Commissioner in July 2004.
- Since WWII, there has been an explosion of international nongovernmental organizations dealing with human rights such as Human Rights Watch, International Federation of Human Rights and Amnesty International. Amnesty has over 1.8 million members, supporters and subscribers in over 150 countries and territories in every region of the world.
- In Canada, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization Equitas (formerly the Canadian Human Rights Foundation) develops and delivers human rights education programs in Africa, Asia and Central and Eastern Europe and sponsors a three-week International Human Rights Training program in Montreal each year.
- A Canadian-commissioned report 'Responsibility to Protect' calls upon the international community to intervene when a country fails to protect its people from massive crimes against humanity or is itself the perpetrator. The report also stresses the international "responsibility to prevent" through peaceful, proactive intervention and the "responsibility to rebuild" in the wake of R2P intervention. An international coalition of NGOs is trying to have this principle enshrined in international law.
Warren Allmand, WFM-C National President, (514) 262-5623 (mobile)Fergus Watt, WFM-C Executive Director, (613) 232-0647
WORLD FEDERALIST MOVEMENT - CANADA
Working for global human rights through global laws and institutions
The World Federalist Movement - Canada (WFM-C), founded in 1951, is a branch of the international World Federalist Movement (WFM) which is headquartered in New York City across from the UN, where it is an accredited NGO.
World federalists believe the best guarantee of universal human rights is a global community based on the rule of law and democratically accountable international institutions, and that governments, civil society, and international institutions have a fundamental responsibility to protect civilians at risk.
"Human rights are a particularly Canadian cause, from the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by a Canadian to our championing of the creation of the International Criminal Court." says Warren Allmand, former cabinet minister in the government of Pierre Trudeau and current President of the World Federalist Movement--Canada. "As we enter another election campaign, WFM-C is calling upon all parties to commit to a reinvigorated role for Canada as an international leader in advancing human rights, including a commitment to do our part to meet the Millennium Development Goals. These MDGs would convert decades of human rights rhetoric into practical progress by drastically reducing hunger, disease, and child mortality and aggressively promoting gender equity, universal education, fair trade and environmental sustainability."
During the 1990s, WFM coordinated the vast coalition of NGOs that successfully helped create the International Criminal Court where human rights violators – from soldiers and civilians to generals and heads of state – can be brought to justice. Today WFM campaigns for the ratification of the ICC by all countries, including the United States.
In the 2000s, WFM leads a new coalition lobbying for the global adoption of "The Responsibility to Protect" (R2P) as a new norm for the prevention of crimes against humanity and for multilateral military intervention as a last resort when gross and systematic violations occur. In September 2005 at the UN's historic Millennium + 5 Summit, the World Federalist Movement successfully pressed for the endorsement of R2P by the General Assembly.
E-mail: [email protected]
Telephone: (613) 232-0647
Fax: (613) 563-0017