Human Rights in 2018
On 10 December 1948, the countries of the world came together to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Seven decades later, the Declaration still stands as a vision of hope that has inspired and mobilised countless persons around the world to stand up for their rights and the rights of others.
This year, in 2018, to mark the 70th anniversary of the Declaration, we should more than ever focus on its relevance and timelessness. For all the progress of the past 70 years, there’s still a long way to go. Around the world, people face violence, stigma and discrimination – based on the colour of their skin, their (dis)abilities, age, gender, sexuality and for what they believe in.
At the moment there are a lot of opportunities for young people to get involved in the topic of Human Rights. Our volunteer Teresa joined the Young Agents of Change Conference about Human Rights in Warsaw together with around 30 motivated youngsters from Ukraine, Poland, Italy and Austria. They were hosted by the organization Mazowieckie Voivodeship Self-Government and got to spend 5 days commuting from Patchwork-Hostel to the University of Kardinal Stefan Wyszynski. All the lectures were held in English to make sure everybody was included and able to participate and the topics were all issues our society is facing at the very moment.
The first day started with an interesting speech about the general theory and philosophy of Human Rights in our modern society. Marcin Szwed from the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights introduced the participants to the general code of rights and the differences and similarities of universal and regional rights and who they protect from whom.
The conference then lead on to the present state of Human Rights within the European Union and how we together, as EU and non-EU countries can contribute to equal dignity among everybody.
Human trafficking and modern types of slavery were among the most discussed themes over the 5 days due to the fact that in 2018 there are still around 40,3 Million slaves, taking into account that the unrecorded cases might be a lot higher. Around 84% of them are women, working in the Sex business, forced begging or domestic slavery and they spend an average of 20,5 months in forced labour until they are able to escape or seek help. It is important to know that this situations can happen to anybody and anywhere, it is not the victims fault to be dragged in such a situation. Especially when looking at the statistics on how the recrutation of modern slaves work, we can see that the path into slavery happens subtly and unconsciously: the most popular form to get people interested is through new and false (boy/girl)friends who quickly introduce their partner to new opportunities that then turn out to be fake. Also, fake advertisiments on TV or on the Internet make people believe in their dream job, in paying off their debths “in just XY weeks” and starting a new life in a different place, however when the victims get to the place it is not like expected at all. (source: https://www.antislavery.org/slavery-today/modern-slavery/)
The next lectures were about women’s rights and reproductive rights, focusing on the barriers women have to face when talking about pregnancies, abortion, mother’s rights and female health care in general. Reasons for discrimination and as such, barriers to Human Rights might be poverty, age, origin, family situation (married/in some kind of relationship/single), skin colour, gender identity, sexual orientation, free access to the Internet to do her own research, (dis)abilities, place of residence (which is very often forgotten but essential for the privacy of rural areas can often not be guaranteed). Talking about abortion was especially interesting due to the fact that the participants were all from different background and places and therefore had different opinions and argumentations. While lots of young people were open to discuss it, others weren’t. However, worldwide, an estimated 25 million unsafe abortions occur each year. In countries where abortion is completely banned or permitted only to save the woman’s life or preserve her physical health, only 1 in 4 abortions were safe; whereas, in countries where abortion is legal on broader grounds, nearly 9 in 10 abortions were done safely. Restricting access to abortions and stigmatizing women who do abort does not reduce the number of abortions. (source: https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/28-09-2017-worldwide-an-estimated-25-million-unsafe-abortions-occur-each-year)
The lectures ended with a speech about the Anthropological Approach to Human Rights, trying to define aspects like collective versus individual rights and the obligation/right to obey to the law or not.
Within the scope of the 5 days, there was also time for 2 big discussion rounds about the right to (not) ban certain forms of cultural expression (especially striking a balance between the right for freedom of expression and the prohibition of discrimination) and another discussion about the obligation of a state to (not) provide public health care for everybody.
But the whole conference was not just about the lectures themselves! After the mostly intense days in university the organizers planned excursions to the Warsaw castle, the "Palace of Culture and Science", and several Christmas markets. We all quickly became friends with each other which made the group dynamics very enjoyable and fun! All in all it was a great opportunity for young people to get a new perspective on modern politics and the extreme importance of Human Rights.
If you would like to participate in similar conferences and deepen your knowledge about Human Rights please contact us and we will let you know about the opportunities you have!