The Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 60
Heidelberg, 10/12/2007 - The International Human Rights Day on December 10 marks the beginning of a special year - the year of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Since December 10, 1948, various international instruments and mechanisms have been established, setting out human rights norms and obliging states to guarantee the rights set forth therein. However, until today, violations of human rights are continually perpetuated and remain unaddressed by many governments and the international community. People who are malnourished and hungry, who do not have a shelter to live, who are forcibly evicted, who die of easy-to-cure diseases, who are persecuted, tortured and killed - all of them, are victims of the manifold breaches of human rights law that is binding upon all states signatories to such instruments.
However, people persistently fight against injustice. In many cases, affected people, with the support of local or international organizations, struggle to achieve the rights ensured to them by law. This is the case with Philippino farmers from Sumilao in the province of Bukidnon, who have been struggling for the past 10 years for the rights they are entitled to. Although in 1995 the Agrarian Reform authorities identified 165 farmers as beneficiaries for 144 hectares of land, the same land was later illegally converted from agricultural to agro-industrial use, thus exempted from the national agrarian reform program. On 10 October this year, 50 farmers started a protest march from Sumilao to Manila, a distance of 1500 km, to bring their case to the Department of Agrarian Reform and to the Office of the President. They have now arrived in Manila well timed for the Human Rights Day. "We have walked more than a thousand kilometres, slept on the roads, and endured heat and rain to show the people and this government that we deserve to get back the agricultural land in Sumilao that was previously awarded to us", said one of the farmers, Peter Tuminhay. Yifang Tang, Country Officer for the Philippines at FIAN International, stresses: "The Sumilao farmers urgently need that land, which is rightfully theirs, to cultivate crops on in order to feed themselves and their families adequately". FIAN has launched an international Urgent Action to support the farmers' claim.
Public pressure is an ever increasingly powerful tool to make governments comply with human rights obligations that they are legally bound to. In consonance with the worldwide campaigns taking place around the anniversary of the UDHR, FIAN, the international human rights organisation for the right to food, has launched the campaign FACE-IT ACT-NOW on 16 October, 2007. The culminating event of this campaign will be the presentation of a Call for Action, together with collected signatures and supporter photographs, on Human Rights Day 2008 to the European Parliament. The Call for Action reminds in particular European governments and the European Union of their obligation to respect and promote the human right to adequate food.
The promise of the UDHR has since its declaration been the fulfilment of the rule of dignity and justice for all. The struggle to fulfil this promise goes on. Time to face it and act now!