World's human rights workers unite to face challenges, UN official says

13 May 2004

Although oppressive governments sometimes defend one another, the "human rights idea" has spread around the world through intergovernmental groups, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and educational institutions, the United Nations' Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights said.

Bertrand Ramcharan was addressing the "Universal Forum of Cultures in Barcelona 2004" yesterday on the question "Agents in the global agenda: can they work together?"

"My answer to this question from the human rights perspective is that human rights actors are indeed working together across the globe for a common cause, namely, the universal realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms," he said.

When the UN General Assembly approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, it called on every individual and all organs of society to teach and to learn with a view to achieving the universal observance of the Declaration's precepts, Mr. Ramcharan said.

The call has led to the development of a worldwide human rights movement working together for the promotion and protection of human rights, he said.

The record of human rights enforcement across the world was uneven, however.

"Unfortunately, gross violations are rampant across the world - and oppressive governments sometimes band together to defend one another. This is a distressing phenomenon. The international human rights movement, however, is not daunted by this. Rather, it gathers strength by working together to stand up and expose these tyrannical regimes," he said.

Forum Barcelona was hosting 5,400 children today. It launched its dozens of "dialogues" on Tuesday with King Juan Carlos of Spain speaking on "The Role of Europe in the World." Other subjects to be investigated from May to September include globalization, sustainable development, cultural diversity, spirituality, freedom and peace.

Among the speakers scheduled to appear at the 141-day Forum are Mikhail Gorbachev, participating in the Dialogues on Water, and such members of the Parliament of World Religions as the Dalai Lama, Iranian Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi, Swiss theologian Hans Küng and South African Member of Parliament and winner of the Community of Christ International Peace Award Ela Gandhi.

 

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