By Xavier Jeyaraj SJ, Secretary for Social Justice and
Recover Better – Stand up for Human Rights is the theme chosen by the United Nations for Human
Rights Day on 10 December this year. It relates to the pandemic COVID-19 and
focusses on the need for building a better future ensuring the rights of all
citizens. Unfortunately, we have witnessed the failure of our systems and abdication
of duty by elected leaders in
many parts of the worldduring this difficult and challenging year.
More than the systemic failure, the pandemic has
exposed ‘the false securities’ that we have developed ingovernance
over the years. It is only “by acknowledging the dignity of each human person,”
as Pope Francis says, that “we can contribute to the rebirth of a universal
aspiration to Fraternity” (FT 8).
When the United Nations Organisation was created in
1945 after World War II, the leaders set the goal for establishing ‘Peace,
dignity and equality on a healthy planet’. On 10 December 1948, when the UN
General Assembly ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the
Assembly acknowledged that no matter who we are, where we live, orwhat
is our financial situation, we benefit from the same human rights: all must
respect and treat everyone equally, with dignity.
There is a need for
72 years of that collective declaration: have we improved in deepening our
commitment or have we relapsed to our basic instincts? Have nations moved from
declaration to commitment with accountability?
theUN has played an important role in confronting
humanitarian emergencies and has set goals and targets to achieve over the
decades that followed, like the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDG), I wonder
whether this has remained an unfulfilled dream or a flight that has not taken
off. The studies and the data clearly reveal that there is increasing inequality,
poverty and denial of human rights all over the world. We still find millions,
particularly the poor and vulnerable, denied of their basic human right to live
a dignified life. In the name of development, vulnerable people especially the
migrants, refugees, indigenous people, and farmers are denied their right over
land, water, forest and livelihood. Economic interests and profit seem to drive