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Envisioning a new approach to human dignity

Jan 19, 2009

Documenting major human rights violations across the globe during the past year, World Report 2009 by Human Rights Watch slams governments for putting the issue on backburner. It calls upon nations to self-examine and change course to make respect for human dignity a truly universal endeavour.

World Report 2009

Publisher: Human Rights Watch, January 2009

This report is Human Rights Watch’s 19th annual review of human rights practices around the globe, summarises major human rights issues in more than 90 countries.

Like other global endeavors, the effective promotion of human rights cannot ignore shifts in global power. The traditional role of the West in promoting human rights is not enough. New coalitions must be built by reaching out to other democracies that largely respect human rights.

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In addition to the country-by-country run-down, the report offers an incisive introductory analysis by HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth who looks at the treatment of human rights 60 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

The governments demonstrating the clearest vision on international rights protections are those seeking to undermine enforcement. In their foreign policies and in international fora, they invoke sovereignty, non-interference, and Southern solidarity to curb criticism of their human rights abuses and those of their allies and friends.

The report documents ongoing human rights abuses by states and non-state armed groups across the globe, including attacks on civilians in conflicts in Afghanistan, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of  Congo, Georgia, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Somalia, Sri Lanka, and Sudan, and political repression in countries such as Burma, China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, and Zimbabwe.

It also highlights violations by governments trying to curb terrorism, including in France, the UK and the US. The report also addresses abuses against women, children, refugees, workers, gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people, among others.

The report concludes that the effective defense of human rights requires new commitments - to studiously respect human rights in one's own conduct, to insist on accountability for serious abuses regardless of the perpetrator, to promote human rights consistently without favoritism for allies or strategic partners, and to reach out to potential new allies with openness to addressing their human rights concerns.

The arrival of the Obama administration in Washington with its seeming determination to end the disastrous abuses of the Bush years provides an ideal opportunity.

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