Human rights

by Douglas Rojas

Fifty years after the world adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the struggle to educate people about their human rights continues.
A symposium featuring four experts in human rights from the University and state organizations will discuss the history behind the declaration, as well as efforts to promote education and to ratify other human rights initiatives.
The event will take place at 7:30 p.m. today in the Cowles Auditorium of the Humphrey Center, located on the West Bank. The event is sponsored by the Bah ¡ Association of the University.
It is a time to celebrate the declaration and strive to fully reach its objectives, said David Weissbrodt, University Law School professor.
Weissbrodt, who is also a member of the United Nations Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, will speak along with executive directors Douglas Johnson, of the Center for Victims of Torture, Jack Rendler, of Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, and Kristi Rudelius-Palmer, of the University Human Rights Center.
The U.N. General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec. 10, 1948. The declaration is based on the idea that freedom and equality are undeniable rights. While it does not have any binding legal power, it has become the basis for many legal decisions and national constitutions.
Yet many citizens are uninformed about it. “People in the United States don’t know that the human rights declaration exists,” said Rudelius-Palmer, who is also a founder of the Human Rights USA, a national initiative aim to educate K-12 students about human rights.
In 1997, the group sponsored a national survey that showed only 8 percent of the U.S. adult population and 4 percent of youth knew about the declaration.
Public attention and education are fundamental in the ratification of human rights treaties, Weissbrodt said.
The United States has not yet ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which has been ratified already by 162 countries. The United Nations is composed of 193 countries.
The United States has also failed to ratify the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which has been approved by every other U.N. country except Somalia, which is mired in a bitter civil war and lacks a cohesive central government.
The United States “should be embarrassed” for claiming to be a leader in human rights while failing to clear the way to ratify these declarations, Weissbrodt said.