Today, December 10, the world celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The anniversary highlights the continued relevance of the Declaration in today’s world, especially in addressing issues like climate change and the digital divide.
The anniversary activities include the perspectives of young people from around the globe, through the work of an advisory group of 12 young activists, selected for their diverse and impactful human rights initiatives at the local level.
Together they worked on the Human Rights 75 Youth Declaration, which reflects the views of young people on the future of human rights. A high-level event in Geneva on December 11-12 will highlight their work.
Giving Africa’s youth a platform that matters
Among the 12 are Racheal Kalinaki of Uganda, Roger Kodzo Klomegah of Togo, and Courteney Mukoyi of Zimbabwe.
In interviews with Africa Renewal, the three talked about their human rights experience and challenges. They expressed pride in representing the views of their peers on the continent in the global effort to keep the UHDR evergreen.
One thing I’ve learned from this experience is that we must include young people in whatever we are trying to do.Courteney Mukoyi (Zimbabwe) ”One thing I’ve learned from this experience is that we must include young people in whatever we are trying to do,” said Courteney, reflecting on his efforts to advance political rights in Zimbabwe. He is founder and director of the Justice Code Foundation. ”We are young,” he said. ”We know what it means not to have a voice in platforms that matter.”
For Rachel, her experience on the advisory group was a positive one. ”I feel that my voice is being heard,” she said. She serves as youth representative on the board of directors of Integrated Disabled Women Activities. ”Representing the issues of people with disabilities at a grassroots level, bringing them directly to the UN” was the ”achievement of a dream,” she said.
Representing the issues of people with disabilities at a grassroots level, bringing them directly to the UN is the achievement of a dream.Rachael Kalinaki (Uganda) From a historical perspective, the contributions of African youth to the UDHR and their involvement in its anniversary celebration represent significant milestones in the human rights journey.
Bringing young people’s perspectives to human rights
Seventy-five years ago, when the UN General Assembly adopted the UDHR, most of Africa was under colonial rule, with limited African representation in the UN. Since then, countries across the continent have become sovereign states, inspired by the ideals of the UDHR.
Likewise inspired, civil society organizations have fought for equality and dignity, ushering in democratic representation in public affairs. The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, for example, encompasses a uniquely African view on human rights.
We need to work on conflicts, climate crises and youth unemployment. They are the key challenges we face.Roger Kodzo Klomegah (Togo) Through subsequent agreements on the rights and welfare of children, women and persons with disabilities as well as provisions for courts of justice and legal aid, the African Union has strengthened the continent’s efforts to live up to the UDHR.
African youth today are aware of their continent’s history of human rights challenges. They are actively ensuring the protection of these rights, and they are bringing their insights from both historical and current contexts to such issues as digital inequality, climate change and political inclusion.
The UDHR is ”a precious heritage that we must preserve,” remarked Roger. He holds positions at JCI Togo and Amnesty International Togo. Still, he said, ”We need to work on conflicts, climate crises and youth unemployment. They are the key challenges we face.”