In spite of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations 60 years ago, governments throughout the world continue to violate human rights with impunity.
Amnesty International reports that restless, angry and disillusioned people will not remain silent if the gap continues to widen between their demand for equality and their governments’ denials.
As it is, governments have exhibited more interest in the abuse of power or in the pursuit of political self-interest, than in respecting the rights of those they lead.
The United States, the world’s most powerful state, has distinguished itself in recent years through a disregard of human rights thereby setting a bad example for other countries.
In fact, this disregard for human rights by the US has resulted in the emergence of both leaders and movements in many parts of the world that abuse human rights.
“The human rights flashpoints in Darfur, Zimbabwe, Gaza, Iraq and Myanmar demand immediate action,” said Irene Khan, secretary general of Amnesty International.
“Injustice, inequality and impunity are the hallmarks of our world today. Governments must act now to close the yawning gap between promise and performance,” she added.
According to Amnesty International, world leaders owe an apology to humanity for failing to deliver on the promise of justice and equality in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“This is not to deny the progress that has been made in developing human rights standards, systems and institutions internationally, regionally and nationally,” said Amnesty International in its State of the World’s Human Rights report for 2008.
“Much has improved in many parts of the world based on these standards and principles. More countries today provide constitutional and legal protection for human rights than ever before.”
However, while only a handful of states openly deny the right of the international community to scrutinize their human rights records, the fact remains that injustice, inequality and impunity are still the hallmarks of our world today, said the report.
“As we entered the 21st century, the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 transformed the human rights debate yet again into a divisive and destructive one between ‘western’ and ‘non-western,’ restricting liberties, fuelling suspicion, fear, discrimination and prejudice among governments and peoples alike,” stated the Amnesty International report.
Global economic forces and geopolitical interests have also seen governments compromising on the issues of human rights.
The road ahead is rocky, said Amnesty International.
“There is much rhetoric about eradicating poverty but not enough political will for action. At least two billion of our human community continue to live in poverty, struggling for clean water, food and housing,” stated the report. “Climate change will affect all of us, but the poorest amongst us will be the worst off as they lose their lands, food and livelihoods.”
According to Amnesty International, only a renewed and visionary commitment to the principles and values of human rights by leaders will save the world from conflict.