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Universal Declaration of Human Rights – 70th Anniversary

This year, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) celebrates its 70th anniversary.

“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 maps of the world.” — Eleanor Roosevelt (chair  of the UDHR drafting committee)

On December 10, 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the United Nations. The first document to outline the need for universal protection of fundamental human rights, the declaration consists of thirty articles that paved the way for numerous international treaties, human rights movements, and national laws. The precursor to the International Bill of Human Rights, the UDHR provided more clarification to the United Nations Charter, a foundational treaty adopted in 1945 in the aftermath of World War II.

The structure and content of the declaration was compiled over time with contributions by John Peters Humphrey, René Cassin, and Code Napoléon, and was finalized to include a preamble and thirty articles outlined as follows:

Article 1 All human beings are born free and equal.

 Article 2 Everyone is entitled to the same human rights without discrimination of any kind.

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

 Article 4 No one shall be held in slavery or servitude.

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

 Article 6 Everyone has the human right to be recognized everywhere as a person before the law.

 Article 7 Everyone is equal before the law and has the human right to equal protection of the law.

 Article 8 Everyone has the human right to a remedy if their human rights are violated.

 Article 9 No one shall be arrested, detained, or exiled arbitrarily.

 Article 10 Everyone has the human right to a fair trial.

 Article 11 Everyone has the human right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

 Article 12 Everyone has the human right to privacy and family life.

 Article 13 Everyone has the human right to freedom of movement and residence within the state, to leave any country and to return to one’s country.

Article 14 Everyone has the human right to seek asylum from persecution.

 Article 15 Everyone has the human right to a nationality.

Article 16 All adults have the human right to marry and found a family. Women and men have equal human rights to marry, within marriage, and at its dissolution.

 Article 17 Everyone has the human right to own property.

 Article 18 Everyone has the human right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

 Article 19 Everyone has the human right to freedom of opinion and expression.

 Article 20 Everyone has the human right to peaceful assembly and association.

 Article 21 Everyone has the human right to take part in government of one’s country directly or through free and fair elections and access to the public service

Article 22 Everyone has the human right to social security and to the realization of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for dignity.

 Article 23 Everyone has the human right to work, to just conditions of work, to protection against unemployment, to equal pay for equal work, to sufficient pay to ensure a dignified existence for one’s self and one’s family, and the human right to join a trade union.

Article 24 Everyone has the human right to rest and leisure.

Article 25 Everyone has the human right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being, including food, clothing, housing, medical care and necessary social services.

 Article 26 Everyone has the human right to education including free and compulsory elementary education and human rights education.

Article 27 Everyone has the human right to participate freely in the cultural life and to share in scientific progress, as well as to protection of their artistic, literary or scientific creations.

Article 28 Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which these rights can be realized fully.

 Article 29 Everyone has duties to the community.

 Article 30 None of the human rights in this Declaration can be used to justify violating another human right.” [1]

The UDHR is responsible for influencing over eighty international declarations and treaties for human rights and in 1999, the UDHR broke the record for most translated document in the world. To date, it has been translated into more than 500 languages. [2]

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Visit the “United Nations Association of the United States of America” for more information on what resources are available for educational purposes, and which events are being held in your area.

http://www.unausa.org/programs/human-rights

Visit the International Federation of Libraries Association (IFLA) website to see what is happening on Human Rights Day 2018 (December 10). You can also follow their blog and even download a free “Libraries for Human Rights” poster.

https://www.ifla.org/node/91728

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References

[1] “Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Summary)”, People’s Movement for Human Rights Learning (PMHR), 2018, http://www.etc-graz.at/typo3/fileadmin/user_upload/ETC-Hauptseite/Menschenrechte_lernen/POOL/UDHR_Short_version.pdf.

[2] Lee, Jenni. “About the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, United Nations Foundation, 8 December 2017, https://unfoundation.org/blog/post/universal-declaration-human-rights/.

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Resources on Human Rights

Bellamy, Alex J. The Oxford Handbook of the Responsibility to Protect. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2016.

Cahill, Suzanne. Dementia and Human Rights. Bristol, Policy Press, 2018.

Devere, Heather. Peacebuilding and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Experiences and Strategies for the 21st Century. Cham, Springer, 2017.

Holcombe, Sarah E. Remote Freedoms: Politics, Personhood, and Human Rights in Aboriginal Central Australia. Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2018.

Lindkvist, Linde. Religious Freedom and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2017.

Loeffler, James Benjamin. Rooted Cosmopolitans: Jews and Human Rights in the Twentieth Century. New Haven, Yale University Press, 2018.

Mayer, Ann Elizabeth. Islam and Human Rights: Tradition and Politics. Boulder, Westview Press, 2012.

Plesch, Daniel. Human Rights after Hitler: the Lost History of Prosecuting Axis War Crimes. Washington, D.C., Georgetown University Press, 2017.

Ten Years of the Implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Good Practices and Lessons Learned — 2007 – 2017: Report of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Geneva, United Nations General Assembly 2017.  Continue Reading →

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MillerComm2019: “Facts, Objects, and Visions in the Design of Globalizing Knowledge”

Rapporteur: Thaddeus B. Herman

On October 24th approximately 100 individuals came to see Dr. Michael Kennedy, Professor of Sociology and International and Public Affairs at Brown University, deliver his keynote address at the Center for Advanced Study’s MillerComm 2019 event. In a speech titled “Facts, Objects, and Visons in the Design of Globalizing Knowledge” Kennedy outlined the nature of various global conversations he has been involved in since the 2015 publication of his book Globalizing Knowledge. The conversation consisted of radically different scopes of imagination, principles of design, and visions of consequence in the articulation of transformative knowledge cultures. The three different visions that were explored in his presentation related to:

  • A technocratic approach to governing the future, associated with the Oxford Martin Commission and Pascal Lamy.
  • The pragmatic imagination of ecosystemic design associated with the work of Ann Pendleton-Jullian and John Seely Brown.
  • An AfroFuturism made popular by the cinematic debut of Black Panther and the more transgressive works of John Jennings, Stacey Robinson and others.

Kennedy opened by acknowledging that access to knowledge and knowledge generation directly leads to representation of ideas and research questions, and he prefaced that his talk would bring many issues together through his expertise and experience as a scholar and an administrator. Kennedy was the University of Michigan’s first vice provost for international affairs, he has been the director of an institute and five centers and programs at Michigan, and he has served as the Howard R. Swearer Director of Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies.  Kennedy concluded nine years of service on the Executive Committee and Board of Directors at the Social Science Research Council in 2015, and now serves on the Governing Board of European Humanities University and as chair of the Advisory Board of the Open Society Foundations’ Higher Education Support Program.

After Kennedy read the Land Acknowledgment Statement (https://chancellor.illinois.edu/land_acknowledgement.html), he noted it was difficult to summarize what his book Globalizing Knowledge had been about, despite having talked about it in many locales. He said that his book had been an attempt, in part, to think about how we, as scholars, interpret intellectual responsibility, as well as how we perceive the institutional responsibility of the homes of which we are a part. Kennedy suggested we should think about what those intellectual responsibilities should be. Most discussions of globalization have a flat meaning, or a post-colonial flavor, but perhaps one question that can be asked in order to guide our understanding of the term is, “If you are suffering as an administrator, how can you make your life sufferable?”

Another question set the tone of the day’s talk: How does work in different sites inform one another? Kennedy began to answer this question by stating “we have no problem with our ability to rationalize, we have a problem with imagination”– referring to imagining the world that we want to inhabit.

Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations

The first imagination of a different world which Kennedy engaged with was the Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations, a “group of 19 international leaders from government, business, academia, media and civil society who came together to address the growing short-term preoccupations of modern politics and business and identify ways of overcoming gridlock in key international negotiations” (https://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/policy/commission/).  Since the publication of his book, Kennedy has been engaging in discussions with this group of individuals. This commission was chaired by Mr. Pascal Lamy, the former Director-General of the World Trade Organization.

The Oxford Commission in part was a process initiated to establish a common platform of understanding, as it was understood that the ability to address today’s global challenges is undermined by the absence of a collective vision for society. To remedy this, the commission urged a renewal  of dialogue based on an updated set of shared global values around which a unified and enduring pathway for society can be built. Kennedy mentioned that, within this framework, it is just a matter of who leads and to which networks, organizations, social groups and accompanying values they are tied, not in what method is used by that leadership to interpret the complexity of a rapidly changing world. Leadership is a matter of understanding global complexity and the meaning of progress.

Kennedy mentioned that after exploring the imagination of global trends with this group, he feared that they had missed an opportunity to get creative. Kennedy mentioned that all futures are part of a trend of which we already know and are familiar.

John Seely Brown and Ann Pendleton-Jullian

Kennedy laid out a conceptual map of John Seely Brown and Ann Pendleton-Jullian’s work on a “Whitewater World” that states because of the rapid pace at which knowledge is being generated in today’s age, we require a different method of navigation — the metaphor employed being that of whitewater kayaking.

Figure 1: The Future of Knowledge Sharing. Source: http://www.johnseelybrown.com/

Invoking the use of kayaking as metaphor implies that we are ever-pragmatic in our decisions, meaning we are rapidly reacting to new sets of information that we are confronted with. Thus, Kennedy noted that universities need to think, not only about how to invest in the production of knowledge, but also how to elevate truthfulness to a higher status in our public life. This applies even more in relation to the new information ecosystem being created by the ever-increasing use of social media – especially twitter – by those who occupy elevated stations within political administrations.

AfroFuturism

Tegan (2012) notes that “AfroFuturism, like cyberfeminism, uses science fiction and cyberculture in a speculative manner, in the case of Afrofuturism to escape a definition of what it means to be black (or exotically African) in western culture” and is a way to “critique…both western culture and techno-culture” (p. 26). Most people are familiar with AfroFuturism through the example given to us by Marvel’s extremely successful Black Panther film released in early 2018. Kennedy noted that AfroFuturism is cutting edge and we need to engage with it, not only because of pop culture, but also so we can encourage our imaginations to wander towards something different than what already exists. Kennedy emphatically claimed “AfroFuturism is more profound than many world-building exercises”.

Figure 2: Black Panther may be the most popular example of AfroFuturism. Source: https://www.deviantart.com/tracedesign/art/Black-Panther-Cover-Art-500177251

Kennedy warmly called this part of his talk “comic-book sociology” but spoke in all seriousness when he reflected on his 2015 publication Globalizing Knowledge, and wondered if he had written the book on a “white canvas”. He speculated on how the book could have been different if conceived in more “Du Boisian terms” referencing, of course, well-known sociologist, historian, and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois. Kennedy pondered, what if he had conceived the context of Globalizing Knowledge not as a globalizing university, but as white privilege composed on a white canvas much like the Incredible Hulk or even the Black Panther. What if blackness had been the guiding light? “What might I have seen beyond diversity?” Kennedy asked of himself.

Kennedy ended his talk by wondering what his project would have looked like if his most recent book had been conceived of with an AfroFuturist sensibility, not only influenced by Du Bois, Fanon, Cabra and Césaire, but also with Sun Ra, Octavia Butler, George Clinton and Audre Lorde.

Kennedy left the audience with this question about the future: “Is the Black Panther the beginning of a popular movement around AfroFuturist alternatives”?

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The African Union and Agenda 2063

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were established in September 2000. Thought to bridge all areas in need of development, the MDGs were created with eight goals:

  1. “To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Achieve universal primary education
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women
  4. Reduce child mortality
  5. Improve maternal health
  6. Combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability
  8. Develop a global partnership for development” [1]

After fifteen years, in direct response to the MDGs, the entire continent of Africa has seen a reduction in infant mortality rates and the number of individuals with HIV/AIDS, while seeing an increasing number of women in parliament and children in primary school. Although progress was made, the deadline for achieving the goals – 2015 – passed with work still needing to be done.  The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were developed in 2015 with the hope that the momentum provided by the MDGs could continue in the seventeen categories noted in the chart below:

 

Photo courtesy of the United Nations. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs

 

Many scholars, politicians, and humanitarians are aware of the MDGs are a predecessor to the SDGs, however few people are cognizant of the fact that the African Union Agenda 2063 also had influence on the creation of the SDGs. While the MDGs and SDGs were both established with a global mindset, the continent of Africa chose to also involve themselves in the African Union Agenda 2063, an agenda that focuses on the continent of Africa specifically. While the SDGs were established with the expectation for progress to occur within the next fifteen years, Agenda 2063 was created with a timeframe of fifty years, and with those fifty years, seven “aspirations” were set:

  1. “A Prosperous Africa, based on inclusive growth and sustainable development
  2. An integrated continent, politically united, based on the ideals of Pan Africanism and the vision of Africa’s Renaissance
  3. An Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law
  4. A Peaceful and Secure Africa
  5. Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics
  6. An African whose development is people driven, relying on the potential offered by people, especially its women and youth and caring for children
  7. An Africa as a strong, united, resilient and influential global player and partner” [2]

While numerous non-profit organizations and non-governmental organizations have been active on the continent since the 1970s, this agenda is significant because it places the agency with Africans themselves. Agenda 2063 proves its uniqueness through a bottom-up approach; rather than have international or outside organizations dictate the who and when of development, a bottom-up approach enables Africans to have a voice in what they want and a hand in how it happens.

Agenda 2063 has obvious implications for political, economic, and social advances, but many researchers are focusing on the idea that, if Agenda 2063 makes notable progress, many African countries could become world players, immersing themselves in international affairs.  Numerous scholars place doubt on Africa’s ability to successfully develop within fifty years, insisting the difficulty to develop lies within a combination of weak governance, political instability, and insecurity – a combination that can be found transcontinentally. [3] However, many researchers make claims  related to the power of Africa, proposing a reawakening of Africa that could have significant implications for the world. In highlighting aspirations 3, 4, and 5, Oluwaseun Tella suggests that the African Union (AU) could be the first union to become an active force in international soft power – the idea that “soft power actors are able to influence other actors due to the attractiveness embedded in the former’s values, culture, and policies”. [4] But neither doubting scholars nor optimistic researchers can claim their projections as fact until the fifty year span has come to an end. In the meantime, the world waits and watches – ready to see Africa’s next move.

 

Additional Reading

Amupanda, J.S. “Who is the ‘We’? Interrogating the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and Youth Political Participation”, International Journal of African Renaissance Studies 13, no. 1: (2018): 56-76.

Ayieko, Benard. “Continental Unity”, Beijing Review 61, no. 36 (2018): 30-31.

Fagbayibo, B. “Nkrumahism, Agenda 2063, and the Role of Intergovernmental Institutions in Fast-tracking Continental Unity”, Journal of Asian and African Studies 53, no. 4 (2018): 629-642.

Ogbonnaya, U.M. “Terrorism, Agenda 2063 and the Challenges of Development in Africa”, South African Journal of International Affairs 23, no. 2 (2016): 185-199.

Slavova, Mira. “African Smart Cities Strategies for Agenda 2063”, Africa Journal of Management 2, no. 2 (2016): 210-229.

[1] United Nations, “From MDGs to SDGs”, The Sustainable Development Goals Fund, Accessed 4 Oct 2018, http://www.sdgfund.org/mdgs-sdgs.

[2] United Nations, “Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform”, Accessed 4 Oct 2018, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs.

[3] African Union, “Agenda 2063: About Agenda 2063”, The African Union Commission, Accessed 4 Oct 2018, https://au.int/agenda2063/about.

[4] Nwebo, O.E., “The African Union Agenda 2063 and the Imperative of Democratic Governance (Review)”, Law and Development Review 11, no. 2 (2018): 259-276.

[5] Oluwaseun, Tella, “Agenda 2063 and Its Implications for Africa’s Soft Power”, Journal of Black Studies 49, no. 7 (2018): 714-730.

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