Eamonn Casey, Project Officer for Human Rights writes that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights empowers us all despite some of the socio-economic challenges of today. Read Eamonn’s blog below.
Stand Up 4 Human Rights
It is a challenging time for human rights champions and practice as Human Rights Day comes around, and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights turns 70 – with norms and standards under attack from many emerging authoritarian populist governments.
At the same time, there is a reaction to protect rights from some politicians and social movements, and increasing efforts within civil society and international development to strengthen linkages between human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the fulfilment of both agendas.
The 37th Human Rights Council in 2018 identified among key themes and priorities for human rights the ‘implementation gap’ between human rights rhetoric and practice. It also highlighted the need to address rights issues for women, refugees and migrants, tackle Gender-Based Violence (GBV), and support human rights defenders, democracy and good governance.
Misean Cara works to raise human rights awareness and mobilisation, enhance systemic responses, and to support people and groups suffering acute or severe violations as they advocate for their human rights.
In 2017, Misean Cara members implemented more than 50 human rights projects in 22 countries – focusing on children’s rights; women’s rights; natural resource and land rights; governance civil society and peacebuilding; and human trafficking among other initiatives.
Missionaries work in many countries where substantial challenges to rule of law are identified (Bolivia, Cambodia, Honduras, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Kenya, Mexico, Tanzania, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and The Philippines).
They also work in locations where complex humanitarian and human rights crises are playing out, such as South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Palestine.
Particular ‘groups in focus’ for human rights in 2018 and beyond include children, refugees and migrants, women, and human rights defenders, as identified at the 37th session of the Human Rights Council in February and March earlier this year.
Misean Cara’s specific mission for poor, excluded and marginal groups means that it actively seeks to fund and support development initiatives focused on women, children, people with disabilities, refugees, and displaced people as its strategic groups of interest.
In addition, it targets poor, fragile, highly unequal and conflict-affected countries, where human rights challenges are often acute, for both sustainable development and human rights projects. Emerging initiatives will support education, refugees, IDPs and migrants through humanitarian or conflict crises to support peace and sustainable development.
Today’s highly disjointed international order makes it hard to consolidate or increase progress on vindicating human rights for all in but, even so, principled action by committed groups and coalitions can still make a difference.
Misean Cara members focus especially at this time on upholding the rights to quality education; to better health, clean water and sanitation; and to sustainable livelihoods.
In addition, members deliver, support and promote more direct human rights projects across the diverse continents, countries and contexts where they operate – raising awareness of human rights, increasing mobilisation for and access to rights, tackling acute human rights violations, and contributing to changes in laws, policies and practices that protect and fulfil rights.
In Zambia, for example, Misean Cara has supported a Franciscan Missionary Sisters for Africa project working to rehabilitate prisoners – many HIV affected – through education, psycho-social, skills training and access to legal supports. Prison authorities have noted drastic improvement in the attitude of prisoners to each other and officers, and better attitudes to inmates by officers.
Ongoing work by St Patrick Missionary Society in coastal districts of Kenya combines awareness raising, human rights education, campaigning and advocacy with a legal casework approach supporting people and groups who would otherwise not have access to justice, such as child survivors of sexual abuse, and poor communities at risk of land-grabbing.
At a different level, the Christian Brothers and Presentation Brothers work through Edmund Rice International (ERI) to consolidate information from a network of communities and advocacy coordinators across 18 countries and feed into formal human rights mechanisms and treaty bodies through UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). In this way, it builds community, advocate and network capacities to advance children’s and women’s rights, resource rights, sustainable development and protection of the natural environment.
Misean Cara also supports Franciscans International advocacy for international human rights accountability within economic practices, multinational corporations and the international development architecture, particularly Agenda 2030 and the SDGs.
It is clear on Human Rights Day that, though challenges may arise and even multiply, missionaries in development will continue to stand steadfast with communities, through thick and thin, for equality, justice and human dignity.
Whenever and wherever humanity’s values are abandoned, we all are at greater risk – but quality, justice and freedom prevent violence and sustain peace. In that sense, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights empowers us all.
Photo caption: Opción Futuro supported by the Society of the Divine Saviour in Medellín, Colombia.