(2008) Eugene as Model for Human Rights

Title: Eugene can be model for human rights

Source: The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR). (Dec. 10, 2008): News: pA13.

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Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Ibrahim Hamide and Ken Neubeck For The Register-Guard

Human beings are extraordinarily resilient. Each day, people here at home and around the world struggle to survive in the face of extraordinary challenges to their well being, indeed, to their very lives. People's ability to do so is made possible by one very important human characteristic: the capacity to hope.

Hundreds of millions of people across this planet experience political oppression, violence at times to the point of genocide, torture, forced migration, family disruption, discrimination and segregation, exploitation, joblessness, hunger, homelessness, trauma, illness and disease. Whenever freedom, dignity and the ability to thrive are threatened by such conditions, hope becomes a critical life force. As a Latin American saying puts it, "La esperanza muere ultima." Hope dies last.

To untold numbers of men, women and children, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948, has been a powerful and highly inspirational source of hope (www.un.org/Overview/rights.html). The declaration tells us that regardless of who we are or our current station in life, we all have the same basic civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. We possess these rights simply by being members of the human family.

The human rights described in the declaration are understood to be inalienable - they can neither be given nor can they be taken away. Moreover, these human rights are understood to be equally important. The rights to food, shelter, health care and social security in times of need are not, for example, less important than the right to vote, due process or freedom from discrimination. For those who have little left in life but hope, the knowledge that every single human being has commonly shared rights can be a powerful source of energy. This energy may be directed not only toward individual survival, but toward bringing about social change.

International consensus on the human rights contained in the universal declaration has influenced many nations in formulating their constitutions, as in post-apartheid South Africa. The declaration also has inspired nations to ratify and abide by the terms of important human rights treaties. Such treaties are aimed at protecting vulnerable populations within nations and promoting societal conditions that foster the ability of all persons to live up to their fullest individual potential. Without broad international consensus on the human rights standards and principles set forth in the universal declaration, it is doubtful that such treaties would exist.

While the United States was highly instrumental in the creation and U.N. adoption of the Universal Declaration in 1948, its track record of support for international human rights treaties has been uneven. The U.S. government has ratified treaties dealing with civil and political rights, torture, racial discrimination and certain labor rights. It has not, however, ratified many other treaties, including those addressing the human rights of women, people with disabilities, children, migrant workers and their families, indigenous peoples and people who are impoverished. The need to address the human rights of such vulnerable populations is especially highlighted by the hardships arising from current economic conditions abroad and at home.

One important way we can communicate our human rights commitment to our national leaders is by visibly supporting the implementation of these rights locally. As Eleanor Roosevelt once stated, "Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home ... Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world."

Thus, it is noteworthy that the new Lane County Commission for the Advancement of Human Rights is looking to the Universal Declaration in thinking about its work. The Eugene Human Rights Commission has adopted the goal of making Eugene a "Human Rights City" whose government operates in accordance with international human rights standards (www.humanrightscity.com). Some local social justice groups have adopted or are starting to examine their missions using a human rights lens. Locally supporting the human rights of all helps to enhance the "quality of life" that we value. It is also "doing the right thing for the right reason."

To advance community discourse about the Universal Declaration and local implementation, the Community Coalition for Advancement of Human Rights - an informal coalition of local social justice groups and their allies - will present "Human Rights Start at Home: A Celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

This free event, to be held tonight at Eugene's Cesar Chavez Elementary School, 1510 W. 14th Ave., will include refreshments, speakers, entertainment and an opportunity for community dialogue. After a 5:30 p.m. social, there will be a 6 p.m.-to-8:30 p.m. program. For information, contact the Eugene Human Rights Program at 682-5177.

Ibrahim Hamide is president of the Eugene Middle East Peace Group and a member of the Eugene Human Rights Commission. Ken Neubeck is executive director of Amigos Multicultural Services Center and a community volunteer to the Commission's Human Rights City Project. The views presented here are entirely their own.

GUEST VIEWPOINT By Ibrahim Hamide and Ken Neubeck For The Register-Guard

Source Citation

"Eugene can be model for human rights." Register-Guard [Eugene, OR] 10 Dec. 2008: A13. Infotrac Newsstand. Web. 24 Aug. 2011.

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