Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Introduction
Sixty years ago, nations of the world joined together in recognizing that all peoples, in all nations, are free and equal regardless of race, religion, economic status, age, gender or other personal characteristics. Through the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the United Nations brought into being the first international document recognizing human rights as the foundation of peace, justice and freedom in the world.
The Universal Declaration outlines 30 basic rights essential for all human beings to achieve their full potential and to live a life free of fear and want. It was a unique approach that developed from the world saying 'never again' to the horrific events of World War Two, a war that brought a scale of atrocity never previously witnessed. The global death count is estimated to have been more than 50 million. War crimes were widespread: from the infamous Holocaust in which Nazi Germany sought to eliminate 'undesirables' such as Jews, Poles, Slavs, Roma, Sinti, the mentally and physically disabled, homosexuals and other persons, to the use of sex slaves, otherwise known as 'comfort women', by Japanese soldiers. Labour camps were used throughout the world and, disturbingly, World War Two brought the first testing of biological warfare by Japan and the use of atomic bombs in Nagasaki and Hiroshima by the United States of America. Read more...
The challenges in relation to human rights around the world are immense and often personally overwhelming. As you learn more about the issues, it can be a bit frustrating to work out how, as an individual in this complex world, you can have a positive impact and effect change. There are many ways to make change and one of them is to understand that small steps can make an incredible difference.
Now, more than ever, there are new ways and mediums for youth to become engaged in positive social change. From the expansion of online communities to increasing volunteerism, youth are making an impact. If you aren't sure where to start, here are some helpful suggestions!
1. Take the Time to Learn More
In our information world, there is ready access to learning more about issues. At the end of each theme area on this website, you will see "Learn More, Take Action." These sections provide links to organizations and online resources that can give you more information on the issue and how to take action. Why not check these out?
To become a global citizen it is critically important to become informed. Maintaining an open, non-judgmental opinion will help you to make decisions about what action you want to take. It will also help you to explain to others the value of learning more about issues.
Developing compassion and understanding not only comes from reading, it also comes from experiences. In order to understand and work with other people and cultures, take the time to become involved in cultural celebrations of other groups, attend their public events, and engage in conversations with people at the bus stop or anywhere! Many youth feel they need to travel across the world to get a cross cultural experience or devote themselves to helping the poor, but the reality is that we have poverty and minority groups here in Canada and you needn't look far to connect and learn more. Get in touch with your local Native Friendship Centre, or check out some of the ethno-cultural groups in your community, become involved and the learning will come!
Human kindness and willingness to know others is a core component of creating a world free of fear and built upon empathy and compassion. Your simple act of becoming involved and reaching out can have significant impact. Don't underestimate that!
2. Get Involved with Organizations
If you are passionate or just curious about an issue or action, find an organization working to make change and ask how you can help out. Community organizations are usually short of help and a committed volunteer is always welcome. Take the time to talk to them, find out what they need and decide what you want to achieve by your participation. It will add to your skills, create new networks and friendships, as well as have a positive impact on the community. Not only that, but it will look good on your resume! Be sure to review the "Learn More, Take Action" sections in the theme pages.
3. Join an Online Community
There are increasing numbers of online communities around human rights issues. TakingITGlobal is one example of the networks of youth who are making change and are passionate about the world. There are many other sites that may fit your interests. Check out 4REAL.com, All at Once, Xt3.com, www.vibewire.org, www.oasisjournals.com, and www.cogito.org. Search groups on Facebook and Myspace that match your interests. Keep in mind that you are not alone in your interests and struggles! There are others out there who would love to share their experiences and views about issues.
4. Focus on Yourself
You can be a change agent and you can have an impact even by yourself. To do this you have to believe in yourself. We all struggle with fear and may not fully believe in our ability, but in our own ways, we each have something important to contribute.
Also, human rights are really about human relationships. One of the most important things you can do is to ensure you have positive, healthy relationships and make time for your friends, family and community. Complimenting someone, helping them with their bags, or dropped books, can bring a smile to their face and influence their day more than you can know.
5. Raise Awareness
Often in our communities, apathy stems from a general misunderstanding or lack of awareness. Take the time to raise awareness in others about issues that you care about; whether by talking to your friends and family or planning a public event. Educate and involve others and find creative ways of communicating your interest. If you play music, think about how you can use it as a vehicle for awareness and change. No matter your interests, or field of study, you have something to contribute!