Renew your commitment to universal Human Rights this week

Wednesday, December 10th, is International Human Rights Day. It commemorates the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the articulation of the inherent  rights of all people worldwide, by the members of the United Nations.

In honor of this occasion, it is worth repeati2009 Write-athon Providence RIng the first two Articles of the Universal Declaration.

Article 1.  “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

Article 2.  “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.”

Unfortunately, our world leaders are examples of the difference between what organizational theorists Chris Argyris and Donald A. Schön described as one’s espoused theory, or what we tell ourselves we believe, and our theory-in-use, or what we actually do.

While the leaders of the world say they believe in the principles of the Universal Declaration, unfortunately, they routinely violate those very principles.

In many organizations, our leaders may sincerely be unaware of how their theory-in-use differs from their espoused theory. In the case of human rights, however, it takes a pretty serious mental pretzle for a leader to believe that extrajudicial killings, torture, sexual assault and imprisonment without charge could possibly uphold the human rights principles set out in the Universal Declaration.

That’s why it is so important for each of us to hold governments worldwide accountable for bringing their practices into agreement with their expressed values.

So Jon and I spent yesterday afternoon writing appeals to governments around the world on behalf of 10 prisoners of conscience during  the annual Write-A-Thon for Human Rights. We were joined by over 50 community members, young and old, under the auspices of Group 49, the Providence Chapter of Amnesty International USA.

W are proud to say that AIUSA is one of our longest running memberships.

(By the way, for those nonprofit governance junkies out there, Amnesty International is a very interesting example of a multinational nonprofit that brings together professional staff and a worldwide movement of volunteers who also have a significant say in governing the organization.)

During the late 70s and early 80s, Jon and I were very active in the local chapter, serving as co-coordinators and participating in regional and annual meetings of AIUSA.  Jon served for a time as a member of the South Asia Coordination Group, a network of volunteers who acted as resources to US chapters w0rking on behalf of prisoners of conscience or other cases from that region. While the demands of a young and growing family caused our direct service to Group 49 to ebb, our commitment to human rights and our support for Amnesty International has never waivered.

To commemorate Human Rights Day, throughout this week we’ll be sharing the stories of the human rights workers who were highlighted in this year’s write-a-thon.

Please join us and consider how you might act to help protect human rights worldwide. For those of you already active in this area, you have our deepest appreciation.

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