Shulamith Koenig – Founding President of PDHRE, People’s Movement for Human Rights Learning - UN Chronicle , October 2012.
In 2008, Alongside the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the ‘Elders’, led by Nelson Mandela, sent out a clarinet call proclaiming: “every HUMAN has RIGHTS.” Recalling Voltaire, who was asked “what should we do about human rights?” To which he answered: “Let the people know them…” --and having facilitated for the last 25 years the learning and integration of human rights as a way of life in more than 60 countries, I sent the Elders a note saying: “but do the ‘humans ’know them? Most do not!” -- It is therefore an imperative to add to the Elders call, loud and clear: “and every human must learn, know them and own them as a way of life!” It is not enough to “have” human rights, it is essential that everyone owns them and be guided in their day to day life by the holistic human rights framework, enabling women and men to participate as equals in the decision making process towards meaningful, sustainable economic and social transformation. We have no other option!
Having met face to face with people living in hundreds of communities around the world, facilitating dialogue about human rights as a way of life, I choose not to engage in the discourse about diversity and/or intercultural dialogue and not even peace. I believe such discussions distract us from holding the necessary and essential conversations that can lead to the planning of meaningful ways and means to facilitate the learning of human rights as a way of life throughout the world. Such efforts, when implemented, will evoke a sense of ownership of human rights, put in the hands of the learner a powerful tool for positive action, enriching people’s ability to live with and within diverse cultures in trust and respect of the humanity of the other. This is not mere Utopia. As people pursue equal participation in the political decision making process, women and men alike, they join in weaving a new foundation of equality for all and the elimination all forms of discrimination -- basically what human rights is all about.