Human Rights Day

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What is Human Rights Day?

Human Rights Day is observed every year on December 10 — the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, often abbreviated as the UDHR. Article one of the Universal Declaration proclaims that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

It was a milestone document proclaiming the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Available in more than 500 languages, it is the most translated document in the world.

What are human rights?

“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. Yet they are the world of the individual person… Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination.”

— Eleanor Roosevelt, chairwoman of the UN commission that established the UDHR on Dec. 10, 1948
Eleanor Roosevelt holding up the newly printed English version of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.

Universal human rights are often expressed and guaranteed by law, in the forms of treaties, customary international law, general principles and other sources of international law. International human rights law lays down obligations of Governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups.

The international understanding of human rights continued to evolve after 1948. In 1966, the UN adopted the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Although the International Covenant was adopted much later, it owes its origins to the same conference that led to the Universal Declaration.

Drafters split their agenda into a declaration (which became the UDHR) and covenants, one of which would become the International Covenant. The Covenant included a right to work, decent living conditions, health and education. This Covenant helped to further enshrine the existence of “positive” economic, social and cultural rights, in addition to the “negative” civil and political rights.

As M.J. Altman at the United Nations Foundation observes,

In many ways, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals unanimously passed by all 193 UN Member States in 2015, which include ambitious goals like no poverty, zero hunger, and gender equality, are the action plan to realize the Declaration’s ideals for everyone, everywhere.

Is development a human right?

In 1986, the UN General Assembly further enshrined economic rights with the passage of the UN Declaration on the Right to Development, which proclaimed that,

“The right to development is an inalienable human right by virtue of which every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized.”

Worker at an Anera building site in Gaza.
In Khan Younis, Anera built a much-needed community center, employing scores of workers in a place where jobs are scarce.

Further, the Declaration continued, “The human person is the central subject of development and should be the active participant and beneficiary of the right to development.”

The United Nations further affirmed the right to development at the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development on sustainable development, and in 1993, at the UN World Conference on Human Rights, which passed the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

How does Anera’s work fit within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals?

Anera’s programs are intrinsically linked to many of the human rights enshrined at the UN, as well as the SDGs.

Livelihoods

Mohammed, his parents, his nieces and nephews all work in their greenhouse together. Anera provided the greenhouse and farming training to Mohammed and his family in Khan Younis, Gaza.

The Universal Declaration affirms that everyone has the “right to social security and is entitled to … the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for [their] dignity.

According to the Universal Declaration, “Everyone has the right to work,” and, further, that work should ensure “an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

Anera’s vocational job skills training programs in Lebanon and software engineering bootcamps and women’s empowerment and capacity building programs in Palestine are just a few of the ways Anera helps to ensure that people have access to dignified livelihoods.

Health & Emergency Relief

Abu Hossam, head of a Gaza family clinic, says they never close their doors to anyone
Abu Hossam and his wife are famous in their village because their clinic welcomes everyone, at any time of day or night. Anera is proud to support this small local health clinic in Wadi as Salqa, Gaza.

The Universal Declaration says that “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of [themself and their family], including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.

Anera’s in-kind program helps get urgently-needed medicines and medical supplies where they are needed most. And our public health awareness sessions help to identify illnesses and educate families about how to maintain health and practice good hygiene despite difficult circumstances.

Anera’s innovative cash assistance program in northern Lebanon uses cash transfers to provide the most direct, efficient and effective method to quickly address basic shelter and other needs.

And when crisis hits in the Middle East, we stand ready to distribute emergency food, blankets, and other urgent relief materials.

Education

In 2019, Anera built six beautiful new preschools in the West Bank Palestinian towns of Bazariya, Deir Al Hatab, Madama, Nassaria, Ni’lin (pictured) and Qibya.

According to the Universal Declaration, “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages.” and “Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality” and “shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups.

Anera’s education programs support young children and youth across Palestine and Lebanon. In Palestine, Anera has built 10 percent of all preschools. In partnership with the Palestinian Ministry of Education, Anera is bolstering early childhood development across Palestine.

And in Lebanon, Anera opens educational pathways for vulnerable youth by providing informal education programs for out-of-school youth, and classes enabling students to reenter formal education. Our vocational programs enable young people to obtain the skills necessary to find stable jobs.

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