Happy International Human Rights Day!

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 9.56.14 AMThe United Nations considers the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.” The Declaration was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, when the international community came together to form the United Nations in order to ensure that atrocities like those committed in the Second World War would never happen again. Clearly, we’ve fallen short of that promise. But progress does happen, has happened, will continue to happen. Below is the text of the Declaration; it sets forth a pretty straightforward set of principals; idealistic, perhaps, but not unrealistic. As Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 9.56.56 AMPREAMBLE
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

Article 1.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4.
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10.
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11.
(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Article 12.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 13.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 14.
(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 15.
(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Article 16.
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 17.
(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 18.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21.
(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Article 22.
Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 23.
(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24.
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25.
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26.
(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27.
(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Article 28.
Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29.
(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 30.
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

Happy International Human Rights Day

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948:

PREAMBLE

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

Articles (full text) / History

‘Tis the Season: Scrooge? Or Uncle Pennybags?

Damn, the holidays can be so expensive, right? The gifts. The tips. The cards. The food. The drinking. The damn catalogues that take so much room in the mailbox that the good stuff ends up folded, spindled, mutilated. And on top of that the endless stream of solicitations from charitable organizations, the gaping maw, the bottomless pit of need. It’s enough to make you want to pull the covers over your head and hang a “do not disturb” sign on the mailbox.

Still, I like the idea of tithing, at least roughly. Giving 10% of what comes in feels reasonable. If more is possible, more. If 10% is a stretch, then less. One way is to think of anyone on the gift list who really does have everything, choose a cause they care about, and make a gift in their name. Two birds, one stone. Without the killing. Plus, I get a tax deduction, and they have one less thing that needs dusting. Or, rather, not one more thing. Anyway.

I’m sure your mailbox is no less full than mine, and you probably already have your own favorite worthy causes. In fact, I invited you to mention them in a comment. But just in case you’re in the market, I’m going to tell you about some of my favorite organizations, most of which aren’t especially high profile. There are so many more. The need can feel overwhelming, but we have to remember that whatever we can afford to share — even if it doesn’t seem like much — can have an enormous impact.


Airline Ambassadors
Years ago I took an American Airlines flight from New York to San Francisco; I was flying with my dog, and as soon as we landed I took her out of the case she’d been in for hours. One of the flight attendants saw her and started a conversation, and we chatted all the way from the plane to baggage. She told me about a little non-profit she’d started; I thought it sounded interesting, and we’ve stayed in touch ever since. What I didn’t know at the time was what a rock star Nancy Rivard is, or that what “began as a network of airline employees using their pass privileges to help others” [would expand into] “a network of students, medical professionals, families and retirees who volunteer . . . [to] escort children in need, hand-deliver humanitarian aid to orphanages, clinics, and remote communities, raise public awareness and involve youth in humanitarian efforts around the world.”

BEADS for Education
Sponsor a Kenyan girl’s education (I’ve been doing it for several years and have had the pleasure and privilege of exchanging letters and gifts with Lillian, and getting to know her as she’s growing up), or simply shop for gorgeous beaded handicrafts (scroll to the bottom of the site and click on “Products”) made by the Dupoto Women’s Group, many of whose members are mothers of the students; profits go back to the women and are a primary source of income.

Center for Constitutional Rights
The CCR “is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” From attacks on dissent to racial, gender and economic justice they get things done. I don’t know where we’d be without CRC.

Donors Choose
Well, I thought this was low-profile, but the website says it’s one of Oprah’s Favorite Things this year. Still, in case, like me, you missed Oprah’s endorsement, I’m including it. Teachers all over the country post projects for which they need to raise money; you choose the project you want to support and make a donation of any amount. I found a classroom in North Carolina that needed music theory books for singers. You can choose a recipient classroom based on geographical location or school subject; you can look for the projects where the need is most urgent, that benefit military children, or that meet any number of other considerations.

ECPATUSA
ECPAT (End Child Prostitution and Trafficking) works to protect the right of all children to grow up free from sexual exploitation. What more is there to say? Except that donations made between now and January 5 receive a free gift.

The Jazz Foundation
You might be surprised to know that a lot of gigs pay no more today than they paid fifty years ago (I’m talking about actual, not inflation-adjusted, dollars). I find myself wondering how the musicians who were around then, who could make a good living with that kind of money, are managing now, when they’re older and may have to deal with health problems and certainly have to deal with inflation. JFA Emergency Fund helps jazz professionals (especially older musicians, who may have no health insurance, pensions, or retirement funds) through hard times.

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
“As part of a broader social justice movement,” the NGLTF works “to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all.” See, here’s the thing: even if sexuality that doesn’t conform to that of the majority makes you uncomfortable, your discomfort doesn’t justify the curtailing or abridgement of civil rights.

Pathfinder International
“Since 1957, Pathfinder International has maintained an unwavering belief in the right of women and families to have access to contraception and to quality reproductive health care.” Pathfinder knows that good maternal and reproductive health care isn’t just about individuals and families; it’s necessary for the overall health, strength, and economic growth of entire communities.

Planting Peace
Planting Peace has “a variety of projects ranging from large-scale international efforts to grassroots initiatives.” A donation of $5 allows them to deworm 333 children; they’ve already reached 7.9 million children in Haiti alone. Deworming may sound like a small thing, but it can have an enormous impact on a child’s education, health, and quality of life.

Polaris Project
One of the largest anti-trafficking organizations working against sexual slavery and forced labor, “Polaris Project’s vision is for a world without slavery.”

Potters for Peace
One of the things I love about Potters for Peace and Planting Peace (above) is that they’re great examples of relatively small, very achievable solutions to enormous problems. To me, that’s the definition of miracle. “Since 1998 Potters for Peace has traveled the world teaching the fabrication of a low-cost ceramic water filter that can bring clean, potable water to those who need it most.”

Project Vote Smart
I’ve blogged about this before and I’m including it here because I’m such a believer in this valuable resource for U.S. voters. Project Vote Smart provides comprehensive, unbiased, non-partisan information about the political process, elected officials, candidates, etc.

The Upcoming Elections: Burma


Update: Amnesty International Myanmar Elections Press Release

Can we talk about the upcoming election? In Burma, that is. The already-supposed-to-have-been election is now supposed-to-be November 7th. Of course, the junta has canceled voting in some areas. It doesn’t really if matter if anyone votes, though; the grand high poobas of cruelty have made sure of that. They’ve rigged things so completely and entirely that the opposition long ago decided to boycott the election. And why wouldn’t they? It’s a total sham. I swear, if dictatorships held cutting sessions, or competitions for “Most Utterly Ruthless” or “Best in Despicableness,” this one would clean up. If you don’t know much about the situation in Burma (aka Myanmar; see note), well, it’s really complicated. Please watch this seven-minute video:

Then, if you want to learn more, visit Myanmar Human Rights and Travel Info, a website that was created by Amnesty International USA’s NYC Myanmar Action Team (of which I’m a member) to help raise awareness of the human rights crisis in Burma, and to explore the debate over whether tourism there hurts or benefits ordinary citizens. Poke around to learn more about Myanmar’s political history and the ongoing history of repression. And if you do nothing else, please click on the You Can Help page to download ready-to-send letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience. First download the instructions for letter writing. Then download as many of the letters as you care to (there are just seven letters, though there are thought to be upwards of 2,000 political prisoners), sign, and send them.

Note: In 1989, the junta changed the country’s name from the Anglicized (from Bamar) Burma to Myanmar, the Burmese-language name used since the 13th century, as well as many other Anglicized place names (e.g. from Rangoon to Yangon). Very recently, the junta embellished the Union of Myanmar so that it is now The Republic of the Union of Myanmar [eyeroll].

They Say. . .

Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home, so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world.
Eleanor Roosevelt

Human Trafficking


According to the 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report, trafficking is a 32 billion dollar a year industry, with 12.3 million adults and children in forced labor, bonded labor, and forced prostitution around the world; 56 percent of victims are women and girls. Here are some resources about local and global efforts to end trafficking and slavery.
Free the Slaves
Free the Slaves liberates slaves around the world, helps them rebuild their lives and researches real world solutions to eradicate slavery forever.
Polaris Project
One of the largest anti-trafficking organizations, operating in the U.S. and Japan, “Polaris Project’s vision is for a world without slavery.”
GEMS
Tthe only organization in New York State specifically designed to serve girls and young women who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking.