Wed 10 Dec 2008
(Below is cross-posted a post I wrote over at LAist.com)
Today marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UHDR), adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations. The 30 articles of this declaration were written after the Second World War and represent the first global expression of human rights worldwide. The UHDR is the most translated document in the world and has inspired many international treaties and laws.
Now is as good a time as ever to remind ourselves of the human rights issues prevailing abroad, in the US, and here in Los Angeles. Violence and human rights abuses exist around the world, currently in Zimbabwe, Mumbai, Gaza, Iraq and Afghanistan, among other regions. Millions go without clean water or enough food. And a global financial crisis is ever present.
It is easy to focus on human rights abroad, but here in Los Angeles we have our own slew of human rights violations, including a housing crisis, homelessness, ICE raids, police brutality, displacement of communities in the name of development, health care access problems, unprocessed rape kits, and an increasing disparity between the wealthy and the poor. At the same time, there is much reason for hope.
One shining local example of this is in South Los Angeles, the area formerly known as South Central LA, where a unique coalition of health care providers, promotoras, and dedicated community organizations recently teamed up to address “The Perfect Storm” – the combination of homelessness, the housing/credit crisis, public health, and law enforcement issues. The coalition, known as the Homelessness Prevention and Intervention Collaborative, conducted an exhaustive survey of homelessness in South Los Angeles. And in October, they announced the findings of a report — Taming the Perfect Storm — written by Dr Rishi Manchanda, Director of Social Medicine at St. Johns Well Child and Family Center and the coordinator of the collective. In addition to describing the problem, the report presents recommendations for human-rights based solutions to the crisis in South LA. The report is well worth reading and concludes with:
In the nation as a whole, persistent widespread homelessness and the health care crisis offer compelling evidence of a collective disregard for human rights. Few places exhibit the ill effects of this disregard like South Los Angeles. Conversely, no other community stands to benefit as much from a community-based human rights approach to health. With a firm understanding of the links between critical determinants of health like housing, public and community health resources, and law enforcement policy, we commit to build the political will and skills needed to tame this perfect storm of homelessness and poor health. In short, we commit to reclaim and redefine our community guided by the practical application of fundamental human rights principles. As an important stage of community dialogue on the right to health, housing, and security begins, we welcome all constructive comments and critiques of this report.
On a national level, our President-Elect Barack Obama has stated a commitment to shutting down Guantanamo, ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, strengthening the United Nations, improving diplomatic relations with other countries, and paying attention to the global crises of poverty and HIV/AIDS worldwide. And on this 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human rights, the official website of the United Nations notes:
“Following this historic act the Assembly called upon all Member countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and ‘to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories.’”
On that note, I encourage you to read the 30 articles of the declaration. Aloud. To friends, family, anybody who will listen. In declaratory fashion. Try it. It’s quite compelling and a quick read. (idea inspired by my friend Linda who suggested this to me and 4 other friends as we were building and dreaming, during a break at a conference in El Salvador last year).