The promotion and protection of human rights has been a major preoccupation for the United Nations since 1945, when the Organization’s founding nations resolved that the horrors of The Second World War should never be allowed to recur. The Day marks the anniversary of the Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Over the years, a whole network of human rights instruments and mechanisms has been developed to ensure the primacy of human rights and to confront human rights violations wherever they occur.
One instrument the Department of State uses to disseminate information on the state of human rights around the world is its annual Human Rights Report (HRR). The HRR describes in detail human rights conditions in each country, and also contains recommended actions to promote improvement. It is used not only by American government officials but also by foreign governments (including Canada) as a reference tool.
In March of this year we held a digital video conference (DVC) to discuss the 2009 HRR, which had at that time recently been released. We connected with representatives from Bureau of Democracy, Rights and Labor in Washington, and hosted an audience that included contacts from Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Parliament, and Canadian NGOs. It was a good occasion for the parties to hold a candid discussion, and the audience had the opportunity to ask questions of the Bureau of Democracy, Rights and Labor’s Associate Deputy Secretary.
More generally, the U.S. Mission’s Public Affairs programs in Canada have included multiple activities that promote equality and acceptance within North American Civil Society. One in five Canadians are considered New Canadians, so much of our programming focuses on diversity and acceptance within Canada’s multi-faceted civil society. Examples of this type of programming include hosting an International Information Program (IIP) speaker on interreligious dialogue (see the post on Chantal McGill), bringing up two performers from The Hijabi Monologues to present their play for
audiences in Ottawa and Halifax, and running a speaker program on shared North American Black historical and cultural connections. We’ve also done a speaker program on Domestic Violence with Beth Feder, and a speaker tour with an expert on governmental and non-governmental initiatives to promote the economic empowerment of minority women and communities with American expert speaker, Dr. Cheryl Shavers. We continue to work closely with individuals and organizations in the local community that also have a focus of mutual understanding within the religious and cultural communities. After all, human rights are best asserted through grass root initiatives!
If you’re interested in learning more about human rights, The Department of State has several resources available to the public, including publications, remarks, etc. We encourage you to read up, and SPEAK UP!