UN Declaration of Human Rights - 60 years

December 9, 2008

On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is the foundation for human rights law. Tomorrow marks the 60th Year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is a document that was written with the ink of justice. One of the people who helped draft the declaration was Eleanor Roosevelt who also became the first chairperson of the United Nations Human Rights Commission. I hope everyone takes time to read this great document, to reflect upon the challenges that must be addressed, and to decide what part, however small, they will take to uphold the dignity and human rights for all members of our communities, nation, and world.

Human rights and social justice are not achieved merely through a declaration or legislation. Only by honoring the intent, and by enforcing the policies and laws will these documents be given life. Human rights and social justice are achieved through changing people’s hearts, through speaking out, taking action, and through education. I have had the privilege and honor of defending the human rights of the foreign contract workers for almost two decades from the halls of the U.S. Congress to foreign embassies; from offices of Philippine and U.S. cabinet members to the Congress in the Philippines; from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to offices of national and international non-governmental agencies. Progress has been made, but we are not there yet. Until all abuses end, and political and social rights and a pathway to citizenship is granted for the long-term guest workers, I will continue to write reports, prepare testimonies, and speak out. I encourage every foreign worker to speak out and stand firm for justice and for political rights for themselves and for their children. I stand with them always.

Guest worker programs, whether run by local governments or federal governments, tend to be self-serving and lend themselves to exploitation and abuses. Whenever financial gain and greed are the primary motivation, rights will be trampled. Whenever people are allowed to be treated as indentured servants and replaceable commodities, rights will be ignored. Whenever a government allows the systematic cheating of thousands of workers by refusing to enforce their own policies and laws, and making excuses for not ensuring that all workers gets every penny owed to them, rights will be non-existent. An exclusive society that disenfranchises a major portion of the population from political and social rights will not prosper politically, socially, morally, or economically.

I believe that immigration and the rights of migrant workers will become the issue of the next decade, just as civil rights was the issue of the 1960's. I intend to continue the fight for the rights of the guest workers until they are achieved in the CNMI and on the U.S, mainland.

It is important that every person acknowledge the abuses in their communities, countries, and the world if they are to end. How can we watch what is happening in Darfur, the Congo, Tibet, and Burma, without picking up a pen or raising our voices? How can we walk past a person who is homeless or in need of help? If you don't know where to begin, start by signing the petition.

An inspirational video, The Price of Silence, was created by international musicians to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Human Rights. (If you download the song at itunes, you are contributing to Amnesty International).


Anonymous said...

What's your email if you don't mind sharing?


wendy said...


cactus said...

That Declaration is great stuff, well worth our careful attention. The fact that so much of it seems so bold even now is a testament to how little we have progressed, or even regressed, since 1948.

For further reading along these lines, I can recommend the International Covenant on Economic,Social and Cultural Rights; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, all of which elaborate further on the principles set forth in the original Declaration.