World Human Rights Day: Reimaging our world with the hope of a better tomorrow
  Nesha Abiraj
December 2020

Nesha Abiraj is an international human rights lawyer. She became the first Trinidadian to be awarded the Schuette fellowship in Global Health and Human Rights which she successfully completed at Human Rights Watch. She was also the first Trinidadian to be awarded the Citation of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for her tireless work to protect the children of the Commonwealth from early, forced and child marriages. Nesha works on a variety of human rights issues. She is an advocate for ending harmful practices against women and children, infectious diseases law and policy and climate change.

On the 10th day of December, 2020 Trinidad and Tobago joined with countries around the globe in observing World Human Rights Day. Her Excellency, President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Paula Mae Weekes made history in lighting up President’s House in blue to commemorate the day. While this year’s commemoration of the day could not really be described as a celebration as such, it was symbolic of hope, healing, unity and our shared humanity as a world.

World Human Rights Day has been for the last 70 years commemorated on December 10th which is the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This milestone charter of human rights was born out of the atrocities of World War II.  In the 1900s the world was in a dark place full of fear, crippling uncertainty, mass atrocities, the great depression and poverty among many other challenges. Against all odds, the world came together and said “Never again,” and for the first time codified that all human beings are born with rights which cannot be taken away from them.

In 2020, we face similar challenges as a world, perpetuated not by war but by a global pandemic which requires global solutions. The time for global solidarity is now, and to paraphrase the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, either we get through this pandemic together or we fall apart.

The pandemic is driving up inequality at a level we have not seen before. According to the World Bank, for the first time in twenty years, extreme poverty is expected to rise.  Oxfam has reported that as many as 12,000 people per day will die from Covid related hunger.

However, our challenges are not just limited to poverty in the form of wealth. The world is suffering from a crippling poverty of compassion, empathy, humility and most of all poverty of the courage to stand up for others in the face of injustice. We shrug our shoulders if it does not affect us personally or if it's not the popular thing to do and worse if there is no recognition to be gained. Sadly, we live in a world which glorifies fame and money over doing what is right.  These are the forms of poverty that are debilitating and detrimental to us in building back better.

We talk about the new normal but is this a new normal in which women and girls are mercilessly and senselessly being killed? Is this new normal one in which an 18 year old girl had her future taken away from her because someone thought it was okay to abduct, assault and then murder her?

We have to ask ourselves: “Are we willing to accept this as part of our new normal?”

Covid fatigue has set in and it’s easy to go into our own silos, but just think for one second: If the world had given up in 1948 or every time there was a challenge, then the rights and freedoms we enjoy today, because of the sacrifices made by those who came before us, may have been non-existent. We owe it to those who came before us and to upcoming and future generations to take action guided by principles of human rights to create a better world, bearing in mind the true measure of a country’s success is not by its GDP, but rather the quality of life enjoyed by all of its citizenry.

This Human Rights Day, one thing is clear and that is that time is up on being a bystander. For far too long many of us have become complacent with sitting on the sidelines. Our world is changing rapidly and whether we like it or not, change is already here.

We have a choice: We can either go down kicking and screaming or together we can embrace this as an opportunity to not just recover better but to re-imagine the kind of world we want to live in – a world in which nobody gets left behind and where the law applies equally to all without fear or favour. The world we want depends on how much longer we are willing to endure or turn a blind eye to human rights abuses being perpetuated before our eyes. The answer lies in your hands.

Images sourced from Bigstock

By: Nesha Abiraj | FEATURES | December 2020

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