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Celebrating International Human Rights Day

This blog post was written by LWVUS's Chief Observer to the United Nations, Rosalee Keech.

December 10, 1948 saw the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly and spearheaded by the League of Women Voters first Advocacy Chair, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt.  This simple declaration forms the legal basis for “inherent dignity” of all human beings and through its 30 articles outlines the definition of “equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family.” 

The Declaration acknowledged that the “disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind,” speaking specifically of the horrors perpetrated by the Nazi regime resulting in the death of 10 million people, including 6 million Jews and my grandfather and aunt.  On this personal note, this is why I take the role of Chief Observer to the United Nations so seriously.  71 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we still see barbarous acts perpetrated against peoples of the world.  71 years and  still, 1 out of every 3 women experiences violence at some point in her life, forced labour, and trafficking of 40 million people annually, and yes, anti-Semitism is on the rise around the world. 

My answer as to what to do about it, led me to the Chief Observer role with the League of Women Voters.  Every day I can intervene (UN terminology for ‘advocate’) at the United Nations on issues affecting violence against women and girls, why it is so important to have women in political and economic leadership roles, and preventing human trafficking by focusing on the demand side of the equation.  I can urge that best practices and United Nations research be shared and used on the local level and I can take those experiences of how something works at the local level back to the United Nations so it can be shared internationally.  

And most of all, I can use my power as Chief Observer to honor the memory of my grandfather and aunt and the countless millions who do not have someone to remember them by. This International Human Rights Day, we must ensure that the lessons of the Holocaust are not only remembered, but that by speaking up, we must stop the cycle of harassment > threats > violence and promote the ideas and practices of “inherent dignity, equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family.”