A New Year’s wish: Human Rights for all

UN emblemBelated Human Rights Day greetings to all. In case you missed it, Human Rights Day was celebrated around the globe on December 10. It was the 69th anniversary of the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris, 1948.

Admittedly, some of us have done a little better than others with this. But before we Americans get to feeling righteous, it’s worth noting that the U.S. is among a handful of countries (Russia, Palau . . .) which have not ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW.) We’re okay with the Convention Against Torture, but not with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It’s complicated.

Are women’s rights human rights? What about immigrant rights? Or the rights of workers (tech geniuses, janitors, whomever) to good working conditions? Or the rights of Yemeni refugees to food and shelter?

Fran & Ally McKinney 12.10.17

The author with Ally Timm

One person who believes human rights apply to all of us is Allyson McKinney Timm. Timm spoke recently at Calvary Presbyterian Church, trying to explain the UDHR (and a lot of complicated UN acronyms) and why human rights are basic to Christianity – as well as other religions. “Human rights,” she explains, “are inherent, apply to every individual based solely on the fact of being human. The only requirement is being a member of the human race.”

In the Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (a document worth reading) “Member States…pledged themselves to achieve, in cooperation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,”

We wish.

Ally McKinney Timm was a successful attorney with a high-powered San Francisco law firm, advocating for justice in the juvenile prison system, when she left that comfortable life to move to Uganda and establish a field office of the International Justice Mission, defending widows and children there. She previously worked with the Rwandan genocide trials. Eventually she returned to Yale, first teaching human rights in the law school and then earning a Master of Divinity degree. All of those credentials and experiences led Timm to found Justice Revival, which she now serves as Director. Having witnessed the worst of what happens when human rights are denied, she has a determined passion for Justice Revival and its mission: to inspire, educate, and mobilize Christian communities to defend human rights for all. (Some conservative Christian organizations have been at the forefront of successful efforts to keep the U.S. from ratifying CEDAW, which is designed to eliminate discrimination against women.)

Eleanor Roosevelt UN monumentAnother woman with a passion for human rights was Eleanor Roosevelt. Wife of Depression-era President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the country’s longest-serving first lady was among many other things, the first U.S. representative to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. Her pivotal work on creating – and securing near-unanimous support for – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights won Mrs. Roosevelt an accolade never seen before, or since: a standing ovation for one of its members by the entire United Nations Assembly.

About that Declaration, and what it proclaims? Just a few of the basic rights to which every human on the planet is entitled include:

Life, liberty, security and equality

Freedom from discrimination

Freedom from torture and cruel or degrading punishment

Privacy: freedom from interference with home, family

Freedom of religion, conscience, belief

We wish.

You can read the entire document here. If there were ever a better roadmap to peace on earth, it would be hard to find.

Happy New Year, wherever on earth you may be. And God bless us every one.

Clinton defends human rights approach

Human rights supporters and advocates, a not insignificant chunk of the population that elected Barack Obama, have had some discomfort over the delays in getting Guantanamo closed and over the cozy relationships maintained with other governments who aren’t doing a stellar job in this area. That ‘other governments’ is meant to be an inclusive phrase, since the U.S., for its own part in protecting human rights, still lets uncounted millions die without proper health care.

The particular choice of words by Secretary of State Clinton, reported by Brian Knowlton in the New York Times, is a new cause for discomfort.

Rejecting bipartisan criticism, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday detailed an administration human-rights approach that she called ‘pragmatic and agile,’ meant to emphasize not just democracy but also development and to raise sensitive issues with countries like Russia and China behind closed doors.

Pragmatism is good, and probably a universal necessity. But ‘agility’? Somehow, the image of our government staying agile in its human-rights approach doesn’t inspire confidence. Rather, it conjures up images of crouching tigers and hidden dragons and all those other now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t fantasies put into play in the movie everyone seemed to think extraordinary but some of us found bizarre.

‘Sometimes we will have the most impact by publicly denouncing a government action, like the coup in Honduras or the violence in Guinea,’ she said in a speech at Georgetown University.

‘Other times we will be more likely to help the oppressed by engaging in tough negotiations behind closed doors, like pressing China and Russia as part of our broader agenda,’ she said. ‘In every instance, our aim will be to make a difference, not to prove a point.’

Her speech defended an administration approach that has been criticized by some rights advocates and by certain lawmakers as too gentle or undemanding.

The administration has pointed to what it said were the early results of its less-confrontational approach: signs of new Chinese cooperation on climate change and on pressing Iran over its nuclear program.

Further signs, especially for those of us who remain believers, will be eagerly welcomed.

via Clinton defends approach on human rights.