Monday, December 10, 2012

Human Rights Matter

Last week when I watched Secretary Clinton’s Frontlines and Frontiers: Making Human Rights a Human Reality remarks from Dublin, on more than one occasion I wanted to jump out of my chair. Clinton’s words just hit so close to home.  This is what we’ve been saying for over thirty years.

Human rights matter.

“...because a society can and should be judged, in part, by how it protects the rights of its minorities. Societies are strongest when they deliver justice not just for the powerful, but also for the vulnerable.”

At Global Rights, we advance human rights for some of the most poor, marginalized and vulnerable people around the world.  We believe that empowering people to access justice is an effective mechanism to overcome power imbalances in society.   We open up a range of tools for individuals within formal and informal systems that best fit their context to challenge structures and practices that are barriers to human rights fulfillment. 

“Civil society is important everywhere, including in our countries. But nowhere is it more vital than in those states whose futures are unsure… We know that durable change is most likely to come from within, and that it takes everyone – journalists and activists, business people and teachers, religious leaders and labor leaders – pointing out the need for change, providing the ideas for change...”

What makes Global Rights unique among other human rights actors is that we just don’t “go in and fix the problem.” We believe systemic change to overcome barriers and to achieve full human rights begins with the individual and the community. We believe in the courage, passion and potential civil society has to be change makers in their societies.  That is why we work alongside local partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America and provide them with the tools, skills and education they need in order to make positive, sustainable change in their communities.  This approach works.

“It’s very true that many governments attempt to squeeze civil society in a steel vise, and we are seeing a particular movement against the LGBT community around the world, punishing people, harassing them, beating them, imprisoning them for who they are…”

LGBT rights are human rights. Global Rights’ LGBT Rights program in Sierra Leone is breaking the silence. Our partners, members and nonmembers of the LGBT community, know human rights are universal. They are ensuring that everybody –regardless of gender or sexual orientation— are entitled to the same rights.

“In many places we’re also working with USAID and other donors to help civil society actors build the skills they need to do their work effectively, documenting abuses, storing data, learning how to deal with the media.”

Burundi may look small on the map, but it is a country with big potential.  With our USAID-funded project, Global Rights helped establish the Nongovernmental Organization (NGO) Network on Transitional Justice to increase civil society’s understanding of, support for, and participation in the transitional justice process in Burundi.  To deliver justice, we’re helping civil society monitor and document human rights abuses and store them in a database—the first of its kind in the country.

“I personally have no doubt that if women everywhere were treated as equal to men in rights and dignity, we would see economic and political progress come to places that are now teetering on the edge.”

We believe in women. In all of our programs, Global Rights makes a deliberate effort to promote and protect women’s rights. We believe empowering women so that they can assert and protect their rights is critical in order for societies to thrive.  We work with amazing women day in and day out who are working as agents of positive change throughout the Maghreb region and beyond.

So, on this International Human Rights Day, I leave you with one last quote that I truly believe in and hope you do to:

“And if you are truly representing your citizens, you cannot do so effectively in the 21st century without recognizing that human rights must remain a central goal of those of us who believe in the dignity of every person.”


Posted by Susan M. Farnsworth

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