When the UN Charter
was being drafted in the closing days of the Second World War in 1945, a debate ensued on what its opening words should be. Jan Smuts, representative of colonial South Africa, had originally suggested that the UN Charter begin with the words, ‘The High Contracting Parties.’
It has been one year since the police murder of George Floyd, an outrage that resonated around the world. The killing forced people to the streets, in the USA and on every inhabited continent, to demand respect for Black lives and Black rights, proving that protest was essential even during the pandemic.
Two events generated significant interest and global solidarity in the final days of December 2020. A court in Saudi Arabia handed down a five years and eight months sentence to activist Loujain Al-Hathloul
for publicly supporting women’s right to drive. Nicholas Opiyo, Ugandan human rights lawyer and defender of persecuted members of the LGBTQI community and political opponents of the president was arbitrarily detained on trumped up charges of ‘money laundering.’ Nicholas Opiyo was granted bail
on 30 December following an outpouring of global support for his activism for justice. In handing out the verdict to Loujain Al-Hathloul, the court partly suspended her sentence raising hope that she might be released from prison in a couple of months due to time already served.
This September, New Yorkers will be a lot less annoyed. They’ve been spared the annual disruptions from road closures, sirens and movement of security forces accompanying world leaders who attend the UN General Assembly. By largely moving online due to COVID-19, the world’s most significant gathering will be missing some of its excitement even as the UN celebrates an important 75th anniversary in 2020.
In her book
, ‘A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,’ Mary Ann Glendon tells the beautiful story of how out of the ashes of the Second World War emerged the world’s pre-eminent rights framework. The Declaration
recognises the inherent dignity of every human being and was born out of the shared horror felt by the international community with war crimes and genocide on an unprecedented scale. It acknowledged that fundamental change was needed to make the world fit for future generations.
At CIVICUS, a global civil society alliance working to strengthen citizen participation, we receive bad news of attacks on compatriots every day.