Monday, December 18, 2017

Just Words: Commemorating the UDHR

Last week's Human Rights Day, December 10, set off a round of proclamations commemorating the 69th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

President Trump issued one official proclamation to: (1) name December 10 Human Rights Day; (2) designate December 15 Bill of Rights Day, and (3)  name December 10-17 as Human Rights Week.  Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a terser, more focused statement urging "all nations to respect their commitments enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and apply them equally to all."

The US government website also announced that the 2017 Human Rights Day kicked off a year-long campaign to mark the 70th anniversary of the UDHR.

No specific activities for the year-long campaign have been identified as yet, but as the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty explained in his Washington, D.C., press conference on December 15, there is no shortage of human rights challenges to address.  While touring the U.S. from December 1 through 15, the UN rapporteur saw dense settlements of homeless, open sewage in backyards, lack of basic infrastructure, and life-threatening gaps in medical services.  The Rapporteur denounced the federal tax bill that would further accumulate wealth among a very few, and put the blame, as well as the onus, on the government to provide for the basic rights of its residents as a component of democratic guarantees.

The Rapporteur hoped that he might provoke a tweet from the President.  None so far.  But far better would be if the Special Rapporteur's report served as a blueprint for the government's year-long campaign leading up to the UDHR's 70th anniversary.  Taking concrete actions to address the most serious human rights issues at home would be a more fitting way commemorate it than just words.

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