In the opening ceremony of the 61st Annual DPI/NGO Conference celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights, Rama Yade, Secretary General of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, described the work of human rights activists as hidden in the dark, away from media attention. At a conference bringing together so many diverse participants, including diplomats, nuns from the Sudan, Rwanda genocide survivors, human rights lawyers and activists from all across Europe, this was a unique opportunity for the European Youth Press to shed light on the work of the United Nations and some 500 Non-Governmental Organisations from around the globe.
All eight speakers at the Opening Address paid tribute to the past, honouring those who fought, suffered and even died in the struggle to give everyone access to justice. The speakers noted that just this week seventeen aid workers died in a tragic plane accident in Congo. Particular thanks were given to Simone Veil, witness and one of the few survivors of Auschwitz. She recognised the role of civil society as she noted that whilst poets, philosophers and politicians allowed Germany to fall into totalitarianism, “there were brave people, activists, who stood up against the regime”.
The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon via video conference described the Declaration as one of mankind’s “greatest achievements” but one which was still a distant reality for too many. Until the victims of human rights violations – women, homosexuals, the disabled, the world’s poorest among others – are reached, we must continue to work or risk a back-slide in progress. According to Ban Ki-Moon, the greatest obstacle to this is that those who are most in need are often not even aware that the declaration exists. The main message of the conference: there is no room for complacency, as civil society must work together to overcome the obstacles hindering the achievement of human dignity and respect for all. As Shamina de Gonzaga, Chair of the conference noted, the Declaration is “a blueprint for the future, a horizon to work towards, not just a re-statement of the status quo”

By: Naomi Lecomte

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