What is a human rights-based approach?

A human rights-based approach to activism entails empowering people by giving them the knowledge to know and claim their rights. This also involves focusing on holding institutions and individuals responsible for respecting, protecting, and fulfilling rights accountable through constant pressure and oversight. It is important to give people a greater say in the creation of laws that affect their rights. This can be achieved by educating the public on how they can make their voice heard as well as educating politicians on how to listen to public opinion and respect human rights. The policymaking and organizations involved with human rights need to ensure that strict standards and principles of human rights are taken into account.

There are many different ways to advocate for human rights. Some organizations choose to offer direct assistance to individuals which have had their rights violated. This can involve food, shelter, legal support, healthcare, and other types of aid. Another way in which to help the fight for human rights is to support key cases through the court systems. The hope is that if even one individual who has had their rights infringed upon wins their case then that will set a legal precedent. Such a precedent would protect future human rights violations of this type from ever happening again. Another legal strategy is to lobby for changes to existing local, national, or international law. This gives voice to the cause and widespread awareness of existing human rights issues. Media coverage and public support can oftentimes pressure politicians into coming up with a solution by passing new or amending current legislation. Lobbying groups can even provide specialists who are most knowledgeable in human rights issues and how to best solve the problem. These specialists can guide and advise lawmakers into developing policies and drafting legislation that will provide the best protection and support to at-risk people and groups.

One of the most important ways to promote lasting and effective changes to secure the future human rights of all people is to educate the public. People need to be made aware of the various types of human rights abuses and what exactly the human rights issues are. A more educated populace will be more respectful and open to supporting the necessary changes to protect at-risk groups.  This public support is key to campaigning for necessary legislation and electing politicians who are empathetic to human rights concerns. In addition, educating the public will change the existing culture and help influence future generations to be understanding and active in advocating for a better future of human rights.

An imperative part of combating human rights issues is for each person to know what their rights are and how to protect them. The United States Department of Justice is responsible for handling all claims of civil rights abuses. The Civil Rights Division enforces criminal, disability, educational, employment, housing, immigration, voting, and special litigation offenses. The process for filing a claim is not that difficult with information and personnel available online at https://www.justice.gov/crt/how-file-complaint. All necessary procedures to file a complaint are detailed clearly and with additional personal assistance available upon request. You can also contact the United Nations and file a complaint under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as the United States is a member nation. It is important for human rights concerns to be acknowledged with formal complaints so that legal actions can be taken to stop current and future human rights violations from occurring. Everyone can do his or her part to protect their human rights and the human rights of all people by being active in advocating for change and by reporting each and every human rights violation.




Human Rights Day 2018

Word Cloud. Source: Universal Rights, Creative Commons

How It All Began

Human Rights Day is celebrated worldwide on December 10, originating on the day the United Nations formally approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.  This year is their 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which declares everyone has basic rights, regardless of their nationality, social origin, opinion, etc. It is the most translated document in the world and it appears in over 500 languages. The concept was put into action in 1950 when the United Nations General Assembly invited the States and organizations to approve of declaring December 10 as Human Rights Day. The goal of Human Rights Day is to create a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations: in order to “strive by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance”. Furthermore, the aim is to show people that human rights are relevant to us all, often consisting of conferences, meetings, and events surrounding human rights issues.

How the World Celebrates

Countries and organizations around the world celebrate Human Rights Day differently; however, the end goal is the same – to stand for our rights. The theme has varied from year to year. In 2003, the focus was on “Know Your Human Rights, while the theme in 2010 was on “Speak up, Stop Discrimination”, and, in 2017, the focus was on “standing up for equality, justice, and human dignity”. Not only does the theme differ from year to year, but also what each country focuses on. For example, Senegal concentrated on a blind theatre group, while Pakistan held a human rights film festival. Furthermore, Madagascar created a human rights debate contest and Azerbaijan held a writing and art competition on human rights. Additionally, the impact of social media over the recent years is phenomenal. Last year #HumanRightsDay was the most trending topic in Spain, while it was #3 in the United States. As a result, Facebook created a profile frame for Human Rights Day, while Twitter created a special emoji. In fact, some organizations such as the United Nationals, Amnesty International, and the World Health Organization used Twitter as a platform to create conversations on topics such as immigration, reproductive rights, access to clean water, universal healthcare, and equality among communities of color.

How you can celebrate in Birmingham, AL

Around the world many organizations have events; however, there are ways to get involved with the local community. An example of getting involved among college campuses would be where individuals could work with their respective student government to pass a resolution to observe Human Rights Day. Another possibility would be to work with the Birmingham community and create an event to raise awareness a variety of human rights issues such as environmental justice, domestic violence, and gender equality. There could be performances, lectures, and a discussion to highlight the importance of these pressing issues, among others. Before the event starts, there could be the option of having a tabling event, where people can learn more about different organizations across the Birmingham community associated with different aspects of human rights. Furthermore, people could start a social media campaign through Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. Another opportunity would be to have numerous free expression walls, all over Birmingham, where people can write down thing such as what human rights means to them, what human rights issues they were impacted by, or what human rights issue they want to spread awareness on. Ultimately, Human Rights Day is about taking the time to focus on different human rights topics and what it means to stand up for not just our own rights, but for others as well.

Human Rights Day. Source: Flickr, Creative Commons

“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.” – Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 1