Human rights advocates needed now more than ever

Turns out, you can pick your family

Turns out, you can pick your family

By Arabella Breck

Because of drastic human rights concerns around the world, the U.N. Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner presented its largest appeal ever—$253 million for 2017, according to a Feb. 15 article from the U.N. News Centre. 

One reason for the larger funding request is that the Human Rights Office is underfunded in a time when human rights violations are far too prevalent. Because of insufficient funding last year, the Human Rights Office was not able to give support to 12 countries that requested assistance, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated in the United Nations Human Rights Appeal 2017.

The reasoning for this amount “is a cry not to despair but to action,” Al Hussein said in the appeal. 

An appeal of this size shows that one of the most pressing concerns in 2017 is the protection of human rights globally. One of the keys to solving human rights issues today is the commitment and collaboration of leaders worldwide. 

The leaders of countries have the power to send a message through legislation and campaigns within their own nations about the importance of human rights, but they also have the power to send a message to other countries about the importance of protecting the rights of every person. Unfortunately, international leaders are also one of the greatest threats to human rights today because of some who have a blatant disregard for international standards when it comes to the human rights of their citizens. 

In the Human Rights Watch 2017 World Report, a summary of key human rights events from 2015 until November 2016, one of the issues described was the rise of populism and how world leaders affect human rights issues.

Leaders mentioned in the section of the report, titled “The Dangerous Rise of Populism: Global Attacks on Human Rights Values,” include President Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

These leaders were all cited in the report for different actions that the Human Rights Watch deemed questionable, but they all had one common thread: The promotion of ideologies such as isolationism and intolerance, which in turn threaten the human rights of people inside and outside of their countries. 

The Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner’s request for this amount of money is obviously warranted in the current global political climate. Without even starting to examine the plethora of other human rights issues, this list of human rights-violating leaders makes it clear that human rights advocates outside of governments are needed. 

If the leaders of countries are not promoting human rights from within their countries, global coalitions like the U.N. need to make it a priority and commit resources to educate and enable people around the world to stand up for their own rights and the rights of others.