Tuesday, December 10, 2013

PM Kamla message on Human Rights Day: World plagued by ethnic hatred

On December 10, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) – as a response to the horrors and atrocities of World War II. 

It was the first time that human rights and fundamental freedoms were established in such detail. This Declaration remains today, a most powerful instrument which continues to exert an enormous effect on people’s lives all over the world.

This most important Declaration has inspired many individuals and policy-makers around the globe to work toward a better world and it is often referred to as the “Magna Carta for all humanity.”

The Declaration recognizes that the "inherent dignity of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world". It is linked to the recognition of fundamental rights to which every human being aspires, namely the right to life, liberty and security of person; the right to an adequate standard of living; the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution; the right to own property; the right to freedom of opinion and expression; the right to education, freedom of thought, conscience and religion; and the right to freedom from torture and degrading treatment, among others.

Indeed, these are inherent rights to be enjoyed by all human beings everywhere - men, women and children, as well as by any group in society.

It is to Trinidad and Tobago’s credit that these rights are enshrined in our Constitution and are rigorously upheld and defended.

Human Rights Day affords us the opportunity to promote public awareness of the meaning of the Universal Declaration and its relevance to our daily lives. It is also a time for education, action, and advocacy.

In fact, it is through the involvement and collaboration of civil society, government, non-governmental organizations, and individuals – every strata of society – that the advancement and promotion of human rights around the world can be fully realized.

It is noteworthy to mention that the UDHR has inspired a rich body of legally binding international human rights treaties. Today, there are well over two hundred assorted declarations, conventions, protocols, treaties, charters, constitutional provisions, and agreements dealing with the realization of human rights around the world – with many of them using the UDHR as their source of authority and inspiration.

The UDHR continues to be an inspiration to us all whether in addressing injustices, in times of conflict, to societies suffering repression, and in our efforts towards achieving universal enjoyment of human rights.

It represents the universal recognition that basic rights and fundamental freedoms are inherent to all human beings, inalienable and equally applicable to everyone, and that every one of us is born free and equal in dignity and rights.

Whatever our nationality, place of residence, gender, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status, the international community, on December 10, 1948, made a commitment to uphold dignity and justice for all humanity.

Through ratification of international human rights treaties, Governments undertake to put into place domestic measures and legislation compatible with their treaty obligations and duties.

The domestic legal system, therefore, provides the principal legal protection of human rights guaranteed under international law. Where domestic legal proceedings fail to address human rights abuses, mechanisms and procedures for individual and group complaints are available at the regional and international levels to help ensure that international human rights standards are indeed respected, implemented, and enforced at the local level.

Challenges still lie ahead, despite many accomplishments in the field of human rights. Many in the international community believe that human rights, democracy and development are intertwined. Unless human rights are respected, the maintenance of international peace and security and the promotion of economic and social development cannot be achieved.

The world is still plagued with incidents of ethnic hatred and acts of genocide. People are still victims of xenophobic attitudes, are subjected to discrimination because of religion or gender, and many suffer from exclusion and prejudice.

Around the world, millions of people are still denied food, shelter, access to medical care, education and work, and too many live in extreme poverty. Their inherent humanity and dignity are not recognized.

The Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is working steadfastly in alleviating all forms of poverty and to ensuring that all citizens have access to proper medical attention, education, and decent employment.

The future of human rights lies in our hands. We must all act when human rights are violated. States as well as the individual must take responsibility for the realization and effective protection of human rights.

Let us all do our part in making this world a better and safer place to live; where the dignity of the human being is recognized, cherished, and defended. We owe no less to our fellow citizens of the world.

Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP
Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai