Tag Archives: United Nations

Human Rights Day

The world recognizes Human Rights Day every December 10, the day on which in 1948 the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a document of which world leaders and elected officials need constantly to be reminded. Here is the beginning of the Declaration, from the United Nations site, where you can find background info and download the full text.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights


Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and
of the equal and inalienable rights of all members
of the human family is the foundation of freedom,
justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human
rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have
outraged the conscience of mankind, and the
advent of a world in which human beings shall
enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom
from fear and want has been proclaimed as the
highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled
to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against
tyranny and oppression, that human rights should
be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development
of friendly relations between nations,

the peoples of the United Nations have in
the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental
human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human
person and in the equal rights of men and women
and have determined to promote social progress and
better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves
to achieve, in cooperation with the United Nations,
the promotion of universal respect for and observance
of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

a common understanding of these rights
and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the
full realization of this pledge,

Now, therefore,
The General Assembly proclaims
this Universal Declaration of Human Rights
as a common standard of achievement for all
peoples and all nations, to the end that every
individual and every organ of society, keeping
this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive
by teaching and education to promote respect
for these rights and freedoms and by progressive
measures, national and international, to secure
their universal and effective recognition and
observance, both among the peoples of Member
States themselves and among the peoples of
territories under their jurisdiction.

Article 01

All human beings are born free and
equal in dignity and rights. They are
endowed with reason and conscience
and should act towards one another in a
spirit of brotherhood.

Article 02

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and
freedoms set forth in this Declaration,
without distinction of any kind, such as
race, colour, sex, language, religion, political
or other opinion, national or social
origin, property, birth or other status.
Furthermore, no distinction shall be
made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional
or international status of the
country or territory to which a person
belongs, whether it be independent,
trust, non-self-governing or under any
other limitation of sovereignty….

etc. etc.


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Interview with Lindy Li

by Nathaniel Smith, Politics: A View from West Chester,

Recently I interviewed Lindy Li, a Princeton graduate who has been active in Chester County political life.

On May 18 you gave a speech entitled “American audacity” at the United Nations World Summit on Innovation and Entrepreneurship [see text here and video here]. You feared that “The same intractable issues will anchor us down.” What sort of issues did you have in mind?

lindy-li-2Lack of campaign finance reform prevents progress on almost every front. I’d love to do something about climate change, but we can’t because of moneyed interests. I’d love to do something about gun violence and to prevent the senseless slaughter of innocent Americans, but we can’t because of deep-pocketed organizations that very effectively impose their political will upon our lawmakers. The American people must hold our elected officials’ feet to the fire and demand action now. We need to be better organized and vocal than those who seek to maintain the status quo.

You said “my story is one of transcending limitations.” For example?

Being a young Chinese-American woman means that according to some I immediately have three strikes against me. The key is to transform my potential weaknesses into my greatest strengths.

You were at a dinner with President Obama recently?

Yes, we spoke briefly. I am also invited to go to the White House on June 14th for the United State of Women Summit, where the President, Vice President, and First Lady will be speaking. This event will gather together women leaders from across America….

continue reading at Politics: A View from West Chester

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Israel and the Erosion of International Humanitarian Law – An Analysis (5 August 2014)

by Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analyses

Part I – The Precarious Status of International Humanitarian Law

By the end of the 19th century it was recognized by those concerned with human rights that the nation-state was a destructive anachronism. It was an entity that seemed addicted to periodic spasms of mass violence, particularly in the form of war carried on with little or no regard for non-combatants or other restraining factors. As a consequence, efforts began to create instruments of international law – treaties, conventions and other agreements – to modify state behavior in such areas as the treatment of prisoners and the victimization of civilian populations. Progress was spotty until the very end of World War II, when various human rights charters came into existence as a part of the United Nations. Through that institution, provision was made – albeit in very narrowly defined circumstances – for the fielding of UN military forces (the famous Blue Helmets) to try to enforce peace and protect civilian populations. Other institutions, such as the International Criminal Court (ICC), were also eventually brought into existence.  

The post-war move to expand international law to cover human rights and provide enforcement measures was all for the good, and in the future it will hopefully prove a powerful precedent that can be built upon. However, this period of progress did not last long. It soon gave way to a hypocritical selective application of humanitarian law. The truth is that today only those nations which are relatively weak and have no great power patronage are in any danger of being called to task for gross violations of human rights….

continue reading at To the Point Analyses

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The Russian Proposal: Two Questions about the Syria Crisis that Matter

by Susan Eisenhower, September 11, 2013

Last night, President Obama confirmed that he is in favor of giving diplomacy a chance to succeed in defusing a potential conflict with Syria. It was a relief for most people to think that there might be an alternative to a U.S. military strike, which could have brought with it a cascade of unintended consequences. However, it was somewhat disheartening that the president did not say more in recognition of the Russians’ initiative. Their proposal is not just a tactical opening, its a strategic one.

Earlier this week the Russians gave President Obama a gift — a way out of a potentially embarrassing failure to garner support in Congress for striking Syria. The president tried to spin the diplomatic development last night by saying it was a direct result of the administration’s “tough” position on strikes. This does not ring entirely true. The president’s campaign to gain authority to strike Syria was not a credible threat. Russia had only to read the public opinion polls, as well as the Washington Post to see the daily head count on Congressional votes. The support simply wasn’t (and isn’t) there. Given the budget, sequester and debt ceiling talks that are in the offing, it is unimaginable that Obama could have ordered air strikes over the objections of Congress.

Now that this proposal is on the table there are two important questions that arise: Are the Russians sincere in trying to find a solution to this crisis? And is their proposal to identify and dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons feasible, given the magnitude of the undertaking, especially in a war zone?

As someone who has spent more than twenty-five years of my career travelling to the former Soviet Union, I can offer one overarching principle regarding the Russians—an observation shared by nearly every person who knows them well. The Russians are not easy to work with when they are being forced to comply with orders from elsewhere and when they feel they are being treated in a patronizing or disrespectful way. But, they can be counted on in big ways when they feel that a plan or a proposal is truly in their best interests. (For further reading on this see my book, Partners in Space: U.S.-Russian Cooperation after the Cold War—only one book among many that makes this point.)

Is the effort to identify and destroy Syrian stockpiles of chemical weapons, then, seen by the Russians as decidedly in their interest? I think so.

First, the Russians would probably like to know for sure where all those weapons sites are. Right now we may overestimate how much they know about the exact whereabouts of this material. They have an overarching interest in the country as well. There are Russians living there and they have an important naval port at Tartus, on the Mediterranean coast.

Second, the Russians would want to make sure that those stockpiles don’t end up in the hands of Sunni Islamic radicals, fearing that in a worst-case scenario these extremists – with probable ties to Islamic radicals in Chechnya and the former Soviet Union – would pose a threat to Central Asia and Russia.

Finally, the Russians would like to reestablish themselves as players on the international scene. This episode has put President Vladimir Putin and his Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, back into the public eye as diplomats – in contrast to the shoot-first-and-ask-for-the-UN-report-later Americans….

continue reading and follow links at Susan Eisenhower

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