The UN Human Rights Day – on Social Media on the Internet!

Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

On the occasion of the Human Rights Day, celebrating human rights and commemorating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was adopted on 10 December 1948, Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, published a Statement specifically referring to the role of the Internet for the protection and promotion of human rights:

Today, as in the past, editorial and financial factors – as well as access – determine whether or not protests, and repression of protests, are televised or reported in newspapers around the world. But, wherever it happens, you can now guarantee it will be tweeted on Twitter, posted on Facebook, broadcast on Youtube, and uploaded onto the internet.

That is why I also quote here from her Statement, including, at the end, the reference to the Internet resources used by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights:

2011 has been an extraordinary year for human rights.

A year when a single word, embodying the thwarted quest of a single impoverished young man in a remote province of Tunisia, struck a chord which swiftly rose to a crescendo.

Within days it had rolled into the capital, Tunis, with such a roar that, in just four weeks it knocked the foundations from under an entrenched and apparently invincible authoritarian regime. This precedent, and its radical revision of the art of the possible, quickly reverberated into the streets and squares of Cairo, followed one after another by towns and cities all across the region, and, ultimately, in different forms, across the world.

That word, that quest, was for “dignity.”

In Tunis and Cairo, Benghazi and Dara’a, and later on – albeit in a very different context – in Madrid, New York, London, Santiago and elsewhere, millions of people from all walks of life have mobilized to make their own demands for human dignity. They have dusted off the promise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and demanded “freedom from fear and freedom from want,” the Declaration’s shorthand for all the civil, political, social economic and cultural rights it contains. They have reminded governments and international institutions alike that health care, and education and housing, and access to justice, are not commodities for sale to the few, but rather rights, guaranteed to everyone, everywhere, without discrimination.

 
In 2011, the very idea of “power” shifted. During the course of this extraordinary year, it was wielded not just by mighty institutions in marble buildings, but increasingly by ordinary men, women, and even children, courageously standing up to demand their rights. In the Middle East and North Africa, many thousands have paid with their lives, and tens of thousands have been injured, besieged, tortured, detained, and threatened, but their newfound determination to demand their rights has meant they are no longer willing to accept injustice…

The message of this unexpected global awakening was carried in the first instance not by the satellites of major media conglomerates, or conferences, or other traditional means – although these all played a role — but by the dynamic and irrepressible surge of social media.

The results have been startling.

By the end of this first year of the global awakening, we have already seen peaceful and successful elections in Tunisia and, earlier this week, in Egypt — where the turn-out for the first truly democratic elections there for decades has exceeded everybody’s expectations, despite the shocking upsurge in violence in Tahrir Square.

Today, as in the past, editorial and financial factors – as well as access – determine whether or not protests, and repression of protests, are televised or reported in newspapers around the world. But, wherever it happens, you can now guarantee it will be tweeted on Twitter, posted on Facebook, broadcast on Youtube, and uploaded onto the internet. Governments no longer hold the ability to monopolize the dissemination of information and censor what it says…

On Human Rights Day 2011, I urge everyone, everywhere to join in the internet and social media campaign my office has launched to help more people know, demand and defend their human rights. It is a campaign that should be maintained so long as human rights abuses continue.”

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Internet resources (accessible by a mouse click on the color-highlighted items):

As part of the campaign, on 10 November an online discussion began on Facebook and Twitter (#CelebrateRights) in English, French and Spanish called “30 Days and 30 Rights.” It is also being carried in Chinese on Weibo – 微博 – Pinyin Wēibó. It counts down to Human Rights Day on 10 December with a daily posting about one specific article of the Universal Declaration – 30 in total.

In addition, the High Commissioner for Human Rights is hosting an event at 9:30 EST in New York on the eve of Human Rights Day (i.e. 9 December), when she will answer human rights questions sent in via different social media platforms from all corners of the world. The event will be webcast and streamed live. Stay tuned, and send in your questions, using #AskRights

For more information on the Human Rights Day campaign.

Follow the live tweet of the High Commissioner’s press conference on Twitter at #CelebrateRights

Follow us on Facebook.

Make a wish for Human Rights Day.

For more information on the High Commissioner’s social media conversation

Check our YouTube Channel for videos related to Human Rights Day.

As the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights referred in her Statement to “Tunis and Cairo, Benghazi and Dara’a, and later on – albeit in a very different context – to Madrid, New York, London, Santiago and elsewhere, [where] millions of people from all walks of life have mobilized to make their own demands for human dignity, I add here references to the Arab Spring (Arab spring: an interactive timeline of Middle East protests).

A link also follows here to activities of people which had started in the USA under the slogan Occupy Wall Street – the leaderless movement of people from many different backgrounds and political persuasions, with the common goal to no longer silently tolerate the greed and corruption they see in the holders of big economic power, with material – as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said – that does not easily make it into news televised or reported in newspapers, but is on the Internet.

It is interesting that in the Occupy Wall Street reporting, there is also a quote from the 1944 State of the Union Address by a republican US president, Franklin D. Roosevelt. It is no surprise that also President Barack Obama recently referred to President Roosevelt’s vision of a more just United States of America:

It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

Is this vision not the same for every nation, that the future development of a country cannot be achieved if it is disregarding injustice – “if some fraction of our people – whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth – is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure”?

Which are the fractions in Cambodia – one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth?

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