Today, the United Nations System in Rwanda joins the Government and people of Rwanda, as well all other UN Member States in commemorating this year’s International Human Rights Day.
The theme of the 2014 Human Rights Day is “Human Rights-365”, which projects the idea that every day of the year should be a human rights day.
It would be recalled that sixty-six years ago, on December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as an expression of the aspirations of the people of the world regarding human rights.
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” is the very powerful opening words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which promises all the economic, social, political, cultural and civil rights that underpin a life free from want and fear.
In the words of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein: “The power of the Universal Declaration is the power of ideas to change the world. It tells us that human rights are essential and indivisible – 365 days a year. Every day is Human Rights day: a day on which we work to ensure that all people can gain equality, dignity and freedom”.
Adherence to, and respect for, human rights are not just ethical imperatives, but they also key to conflict prevention and sustainable development.
In Rwanda, the Government, with support from the United Nations and other development partners, has further integrated these rights into national laws and policies.
The Government’s commitment to Human Rights is also demonstrated by its determination to implement the recommendations of the UN Human Rights Council under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
Over the last few years, the United Nations System in Rwanda has registered important contributions to the promotion of human rights. The Rwandan Government has ensured the ratification of the most important human rights conventions.
100 per cent of overdue reports on various human rights conventions such as those on rights of women and children as well as economic and social rights were prepared and submitted to the respective international treaty bodies.
The citizens of Rwanda were educated about their rights and preserved these rights through a continued dialogue between the justice sector, the district levels and citizens.
The country ratified eight out of the nine key human rights instruments and their additional protocols. This year, the One-UN Rwanda has worked closely with the Rwandan Government and other stakeholders in the preparation for the country’s review under the UPR, due next year.
We have also supported other national efforts aimed at promoting rights and the rule of law, such as training of judges on the application of human rights law in national courts.
Today, as we mark this International Human Rights Day during the same year that Rwanda commemorates the 20th anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi, the UN Secretary-General reminds us on the need to rededicate our efforts to protect human rights for all, and play our respective roles in advancing the struggle against injustice, intolerance and extremism.
According to the UN Secretary-General: “This is a matter of individual justice, social stability and global progress”.The UN Secretary-General’s new Human Rights Up Front initiative aims to heed the alarm and respond to violations before they degenerate into mass atrocities so that these terrible tragedies can never happen again.
As we have done in the past, we shall continue to stand behind the Rwandan Government, its institutions and its people, to ensure the respect and promotion of human rights for all.
This will also entail working with the Government and the other development partners in addressing the residual areas of concern for many stakeholders, notably media reforms, reinforcement of political participation and more empowerment of civil society organizations.
Let us not just think about human rights today because it is Human Rights Day celebration. Let us think about human rights all the 365 days of the year!
The writer is the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations System in Rwanda