Global State of Human Rights Conference

The Third High-Level Conference on the Global State of Human Rights took place in the picturesque San Nicolò monastery, Venice, Italy, on 14-15 July. The conference was co-organised by The Global Campus of Human Rights and the Right Livelihood Foundation. 

2023 marks the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the 30th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VDPA). Experts gathered for insightful discussions in four roundtables. Two of the speakers were Neshan Gunasekera, research fellow at RWI and Thérèse Murphy, visiting professor at RWI.

Reflecting on the vision and where we stand today

The first roundtable examined the root cause of the current human rights situation, focusing on the failure in delivering the promises of the UDHR and VDPA. Issues identified included the spread of authoritarianism, selective application of human rights by powerful countries, corruption, and lack of trust in governments and democracy. According to one expert, “authoritarians learn from one another across the board”. 

Solutions proposed during the conference emphasised the implementation and monitoring of existing norms, establishment of accountability mechanisms, and avenues for redress for victims. “Currently, there is no system for neither,” according to one participant.

A crucial issue that emerged during the discussions was the lack of representation and participation of youth in decision-making processes. “Where is the place for youth, where is their chair at the table?” questioned one panelist, highlighting the urgent need to bring young voices to the forefront in the UN system, businesses, and the EU parliament.

A human rights strategy to overcome today’s global and regional crises

The second roundtable focused on human rights strategies to overcome global and regional crises. The European Court of Human Rights faced challenges in handling mass applications, with Turkey having the highest number of cases at 28,000. While individual application rights were essential, it also led to slower handling processes. To address this, it was suggested to educate children about their rights and freedoms to foster a culture of rule of law from an early age.

Women’s rights and LGBTQIA+ rights are under threat, with populist movements and the ultra-right gaining power in Europe. The narrative used to undermine these rights was particularly concerning, with some politicians framing the Istanbul convention as a threat to families. Turkey’s withdrawal from the convention in 2021 had severe implications, endangering millions of girls and women. “The human rights narrative in instances like this is crucial,” stressed a speaker.

Asia faced unique challenges, with half of its sub-regions being non-democratic. However, Asia is also home to the largest, and the smallest, democratic states in the world. Human rights discourse in the region saw growth through various entry points. To raise the standard of living, a focus on basic minimum needs like healthcare was deemed crucial.

The climate crisis as a human rights crisis: Interlinkages between conflict, the environment and rights of future generations

The third panel addressed the climate crisis and earth trusteeship as a human rights crisis. Further, it emphasised the role of youth in activism. Neshan Gunasekera from the Raoul Wallenberg Institute urged, “Our generation has to put this right before it’s too late.”

Another important aspect raised was the recent attack on the Kakhovka dam on 6 June, which, affects hundreds of thousands of people. Not only did it have an implication on the people, but the attack caused immense environmental damages. The implications will show for years to come.

The importance of integrating children’s rights and human rights and the environment into early education was emphasized to raise awareness among the youth.

Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights

Finally, the conference delved into the impact of AI on human rights, where Therese Murphy was in the panel. In the fourth roundtable, concerns were raised about privacy and discrimination, with coded bias being cited as an example. Social media and AI were found to sometimes prioritise content based on wordings, leading to questionable decisions.

In conclusion, the conference highlighted the importance of clear and inclusive language for human rights, the need for youth engagement, and the significance of international cooperation in tackling global challenges. Empowering individuals, promoting transparency, and involving communities are key to finding sustainable solutions. To create awareness among future generations, education on human rights and the environment should be integrated into curricula. By heeding these lessons, we can work towards a more equitable and compassionate world for all.

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