I will start this entry by congratulating all the men and women of unusual learning, judgement and insight who convened in 1993 for a World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, Australia from the 14th to 25th June. I am solemnly thankful to them for coming up with one of the most wonderful documents in the world that we all happily call the Vienna Declaration and Plan of Action. It is because of this document and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that we globally join each other on every tenth day of the month of December in celebration of the achievements that have been made so far within the human rights arena.
Special mention also goes to the UN General assembly that convened on 10 December,1948 in Paris for coming up with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This document paved way for the outset of the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna where the Vienna Declaration and Plan of Action was proclaimed and adopted.
The two documents have greatly facilitated human rights activists and organisations to lobby and advocate for fairness and equality in various stratum of society. I bear witness to the fact that several milestones in the promotion and protection of human rights have been achieved . However, I also bear witness to an ugly truth that there are some other human rights issues that have not really been addressed despite untiring efforts on the ground. It is a battle that all individuals and CSOs which strive to promote and protect the rights of people will definitely win in the end. It is somehow a matter that only needs comprehensive planning, strategizing and setting priorities right. Seeing how YONECO plans and set its priorities, I am always ready.
Sadly, there are also some other novel human rights violations that need to be tackled- come what may. The aforementioned brains behind the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Vienna Declaration and plan of Action did not just assemble for nothing. They offered a legal backing and the morality aspect of it is also explicitly underlined.
Respect for each other’s rights is one most characteristic that totally separates us from wild animals. A contrary trace to the acceptable and firmly established behavior lenders one to be considered depraved.
YONECO always perceives the 10th of December not only as a day to celebrate the achievements that the organisation together with its partners and supporting institutions have made. It also takes it as a moment to reflect on what we still need to accomplish in terms of achieving human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal footing in Malawi.
Malawians cerebrate the day with several packages in their hands as the citizens, CSOs together with our representatives in the August House passed the 2012 Gender Equality Bill into law on 28 February, 2013. The act offers itself as a shield towards the violation of the rights of women and girls.
In addition, we saw a new National Youth Policy, which YONECO advocated for with a lot of zeal and vigor, being gazetted several years after the expiry of a similar document.
Fellow Malawians, these and many other such milestones will take me and you to reflect on some insightful questions on human rights situation in our communities;
Firstly, are our cultures and their attendant rituals accommodating and respecting personal choices and views?
Secondly, what have we, as individuals, done to assist others whose human rights have been or are still being violated?
The third question is; do we allow other people to exercise their various freedoms and do we stop others who don’t?
Fourthly, are we ready to take and respect the principles that are set forth in the Vienna Declaration and Plan of Action into 2014 and into the next coming years?
If your answers to these and many similar questions that were coming into your head are positive, I only have two words for you- “welcome aboard!”
My mathematics tells me that there is a difference of 20 years from 1993 to 2013 and so, it is a happy 20th Birthday to the Vienna Declaration and Plan of Action!!