International Human Rights Day: Check The State [VIDEO]

Today, as we celebrate International Human Rights Day, it is important to keep in mind that rights come with responsibilities. These rights have been championed through time because we have tried to fulfill them…

International Human Rights Day: Check The State [VIDEO]

Today, as we celebrate International Human Rights Day, it is important to keep in mind that rights come with responsibilities. These rights have been championed through time because we have tried to fulfill them in some way, without batting an eye. Of course, with much forethought our expectations and intentions can be an aid in not using up rights. But we don’t always have time for that.

On this International Human Rights Day, many of the rights recognized by the United Nations, such as equality, human dignity, and freedom, come with duties and a responsibility to protect their rights. Our human rights come with the freedom to criticise governments, to take part in protests, to protest for our rights, and to hold the government to account.

If we view our human rights as gifts from above, we are obliged to keep them as we are bestowed. Yet, if we view our human rights as gifts from the state, we have a duty to uphold them. This is especially true when we need to create inclusive and open democracies.

In today’s world, it is often easy to forget the important role the state plays in protecting the rights we hold. Sometimes it is easier to seek a way to work through problems within our own community than to criticise the government. From the Netherlands to Liberia, some have tried to use the conflict between state and citizen as an excuse to silence critics.

True democracies are a great idea. But true democracies are not a guarantee of an inclusive and democratic society. They are fragile.

As Human Rights Watch puts it, governments are responsible for upholding human rights within their jurisdiction. This includes upholding human rights in civil society: “Restrictions placed on civil society’s right to participate in politics or to advocate for a role in public life must be removed,” they state.

It is important for each of us to provide these checks and balances when we hold governments to account and when we give them the chance to perform.

We do this by holding our governments accountable and by encouraging the freedoms of others. Without these two things, we cannot claim a place as an equal in a democratic society.

Hope for tomorrow lies in setting limits today. In rejecting dictatorship, we aim to protect our own freedoms and those of others.

This year’s theme for International Human Rights Day is “Treat people as I would want to be treated.” While we do not expect every human being to be equal, we do expect them to be treated fairly.

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