After witnessing the atrocities of World War Two, the world, or better, the Western World, felt the need to secure the concept of humanity and the importance of its rights. On December 10th 1948, the United Nations came together to ratify and sign the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a 30-article resolution, with the aim of protecting human life in all forms and situations.
Debatable in its success and in bringing such measures into action, the Declaration of Human Rights was the first internationally recognized article to discuss the right to life, liberty, and security of person without any discrimination of race, religion, age, sex, gender, or political views. Today, 68 years after its ratification, the world is celebrating what many define as a Western-rooted and universalist charter of notions that ignore other cultures and their beliefs. Today, the world is celebrating Human Rights Day while an airstrike (let’s not get to discuss to whom the warhead belongs) is destroying Aleppo and kids are starving in Sanaa. Is this hypocrisy or blind hope?
Despite many arguing that such debate should not even take place as it would be considered neocolonialism, few can support the futility of some Articles. The third, for instance, reads that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person, or article 25, which talks about access to sanitation and health measures. Continuing with the debate, there are many discrepancies between such charters and what the United Nations are doing.
Debating for hypocrisy, the UN has shown itself as a stage for countries to spit into each others’ eyes and get away with it. Peacekeeping missions and state-building efforts are perfect examples; Rwanda, Bosnia, Timor Leste, Somalia. The UN actively decided to ignore or elude the world. One moment the blue helmets were there on the field, and the next, they were gone. Faded, leaving a blank space, a void to be filled by the human beast, no matter what. Maybe this is why in Srebrenica, there is graffiti saying:” UN. United Nothing”. How does that happen, is the real question? The underlying issue of the UN is hidden in a system based on great humanitarian (on-paper) projects that are likely to reach only one third of the set goal. And that is not due to the dollars that disappear from the UNICEF funds because of fraud and favoritism. In a fast evolving world, in the 21st century, the most important and vital international cooperation is based upon systems created fifty years ago, when the balance of power was vertical and when the concept of globalisation barely existed. At the heart of this outdated system, the very core of the United Nations: the Security Council. The power skirmishes between the Permanent 5 have hampered the establishment of proper solutions and peace-measures for way too long. But let’s go back to Human Rights. With the evolution of human societies and, partially, the evolution of conflict and warfare, the Human Rights Charter has lost part of its significance. The greatest example of how it is outdated is Article 21: “Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country”. It is quite the time for “his” to become “his/her” or whatever other pronoun includes women and the LGBTQ+ community.
On the other side, nevertheless, there is the blind hope. The first t instance of this naivety are the Millennium Development Goals. Half achieved, half not, and a bit confused, the MDGs were doubled at the beginning of 2016 and renamed “Sustainable Development Goals” as part of the 2030 Agenda. As much as they are needed and vital to reach, the plan is not quite sustainable. Adding onto this, there are the dozens of programs that have been started and not fully carried out for lack of funds or quorum to keep them running.
This is not meant to be a critique to one of the most vital organs of our interconnected world, rather this is the call for change in a system that could be more efficient and fair, bringing to the field better and more sustainable results.
Happy Human Rights Day!
Written by: Caterina Barbi
Edited by: Shy Zvouloun and Keren Sneh
Copy edited by: Keren Sneh