Human Rights: The Story of a Volunteer
The words "busy" and "important" don't even begin to describe the various elements of voluntary work done by thousands throughout the world to help better the quality of life for disadvantaged people, by way of which I refer not only to those in so-called 'third world' countries, but those living among us who also need help they would otherwise not receive.
For a number of years now I have worked with Youth for Human Rights International, an organisation primarily founded to provide human rights education to young people throughout the world, and supported by the Human Rights Department of the Church of Scientology. Two years ago I was involved in organising their International Youth Summit in Los Angeles, California, while this time I find myself in Geneva, Switzerland, where the heat is almost as unbearable for poor old British me!
Francois Marie VoltaireI disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it
Quite aside from considerations of temperature however, are the very real issues surrounding the subject of human rights today. Prime among the problems faced by campaigners is the lack of understanding of what human rights actually are. For this there is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, intended as a panacaea for the war-torn planet in the wake of WWII. Ratified in 1948 by the UN General Assembly, the Declaration is the de facto list of fundamental human rights to be upheld by people the world over. Unfortunately, the failure of the UN member nations to give the Declaration the force of law has meant some have quite literally gotten away with murder, in spite of their agreement "to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories."
Thus we see that as volunteers, there remains plenty of work to be done. The courage I have seen displayed by young people from all corners of the world continues to amaze me, and the passion with which they dedicate themselves selflessly to helping their peers understand the rights they have as human beings, and which they must take responsibility for upholding within their communities, is unparalleled.
And so I find myself here, in the hometown of the UN's human rights arm, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, arranging flights and coordinating volunteers to bring together like-minded people both young and old, to discuss the subject of human rights. And in among the hassles of missing flags, conference bookings and hotel keys, I know that it's nothing compared to the suffering faced by those whose rights are continually violated, and so the task becomes a duty, to make human rights a fact.
The summit and awards ceremony organised by Youth for Human Rights International will take place over several days next week at a number of venues in Geneva, Switzerland. For more information, contact Youth for Human Rights International.
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manchester, United Kingdom