By Viviana Garcia-Blanco, Dominican Volunteer
This December the UN is preparing for the 70th Anniversary of the inception of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by means of a yearlong campaign. The Universal Declaration is an internationally recognized document that states the fundamental freedoms that all human beings are entitled to regardless of their race, class, sex, religion, language, nationality, or political affiliation. The campaign, entitled #STANDUP4HUMANRIGHTS, seeks to remind people of these fundamental freedoms and to remind the international community of their commitments towards the protection of these rights. The campaign has three main objectives; promote, engage, and reflect. The goal is to promote the understanding of the Universal Declaration, engage a broad global audience, and reflect on the ways we can all stand up against social injustices (1). Individuals can participate in this campaign by sharing videos of themselves reciting an article of the Declaration in their own native language or they can share stories on how they stood up for someone’s rights. These videos or stories must be shared on social media in which they must end their post with hashtag (#) “STANDUP4HUMANRIGHTS” so that it can be tracked and shared across a wide variety of networks in order to reach as many people as possible.
This campaign was mentioned at both the DPI (Department of Public Information) NGO Briefing and the Human Rights Day Special Event held at the UN headquarters on December 11th. At the event, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated that this was not just a celebratory occasion; rather it was a reminder of our international commitment to protect and honor the rights of others. For all of the good the UN does there are significant shortcomings and failures. Most notably the failure to hold countries accountable for war crimes committed against their peoples. Navi Pillay, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, also spoke at the event about what she believed were the main issues surrounding the protection of human rights. Pillay called out the hypocrisy of member states, specifically the Security Council, that place their own self-interest above the needs of the international community. She spoke about the need for more collaboration between civil society groups and the UN to work towards human rights based initiatives. Both parties have a lot to learn from one another as well as produce meaningful and impactful work that can benefit many marginalized groups. Lastly, Pillay spoke about the dangers of anti-human rights rhetoric by political leaders, which is something we see here in the U.S. by our own president and his administration.
The #StandUp4HumanRights campaign seeks to address these issues mentioned in a way that it more accessible to people. Social media campaigns not only provide a platform for people affected by injustices in a way that makes audiences acknowledge and validate their struggles but also give rise to a need to demand change in our society. For example, most recently, how the #MeToo campaign spread from a social movement online into institutional change across all sectors in the real world.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is just as relevant now as it was 70 years ago. #StandUp4HumanRights is a perfect way to reach a new generation. More and more young people depend on social media to inform them on global issues. The UN recognizes the benefits of embracing these new means of communication and hopes to generate more discussions about human rights violations happening on a daily bases. I believe the power lies in the people to demand change and I believe it is up to the younger generations, including my own, to take back our narrative and create an environment that is a product of our honest beliefs.
Read more about the UN’s #StandUp4HumanRights campaign below and sign the pledge to stand up for the rights of all peoples.