Our Rights and Our Responsibilities

January 28, 2009
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As we enter the 21st century, we are privileged to live in an age of profound intellectual discoveries as well as the most advanced economic, legal, social, and political institutions in the history of civilization. Yet even in the midst of such expertise and remarkable achievements, we fail to achieve one of the most important goals of mankind'the preservation of the fundamental rights of 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness' for human beings around the world. Despite pledges of the United Nations to actively work towards 'universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms' as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the worldwide community has fallen short of upholding basic human rights. How else could horrific acts of genocide in Darfur or the brutal suppression of monks in Burma continue if indeed we are fulfilling our commitment to abolish human rights violations?

The truth is that despite legal endorsement of the preservation of human rights, the terms under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are not being properly enforced by the international community. That is why it is our duty as citizens of the world to address the critical issue of human rights violation and actively work to increase international pressure on countries violating such legal statutes through economic or military means. It is imperative for us to take action immediately to end the genocide in Darfur which has been ongoing since July of 2003. 400,000 Darfurians have already been systematically murdered in the name of ethnic cleansing by the Janjaweed militia, sponsored by the very government of Sudan. 2.2 million people live in camps in Darfur, and these displaced refugees are completely dependent on international organizations for food, clothing, shelter, and most of all protection. Insufficient numbers of the African Union and United Nations forces fail to provide adequate protection to men, women, or children who must leave the camps to collect firewood; during these forages, they are raped, tortured, or even killed by the Janjaweed militia. How much longer must the people of Darfur wait for someone to end their nightmare? We, as an international council of authority, must take these crucial steps immediately to end the genocide.

First, we must push for rapid deployment of the U.N.-A.U. peacekeeping force of 26,000 men, as approved by the U.N. Security Council in July of 2007. Along with military pressure, we must also convince the US government and then the international governments to carry out a policy of targeted divestment from companies that conduct business with the Sudanese regime, in order to stop the funding for the genocide. It is also crucial to bring suspected criminals to the International Criminal Court and punish them severely according to legal procedures in order to set a precedent for human rights crimes.

However, the violation of human rights occurs not only in Darfur but in Nepal, China, the Middle East, and even in the prisons of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. A recent case of human rights violations occurred in Burma in late 2007 when the peaceful protests of monks and Burmese demonstrators was brutally repressed by government-related groups. Thousands were beaten severely, dragged onto trucks, and deported to prisons and other detention centers. This horrific curtailment of the freedom of speech and assembly must be stopped. We, as citizens of the United States, must write to our own Congressmen and leaders and ask them to put international pressures on countries such as China to impose an arms embargo and economic sanctions on Burma because only through such means can the repression be ended.

It is our duty to end the system of worldwide violation of human rights'the right to life, liberty, and the security of person that each man, woman, and child deserves. As we grow up, we are continuously given more power and opportunities to make our voices heard through peaceful protests, demonstrations, joining activist club, writing to local newspaper editors, writing to our Congressmen, fundraising, educating others and ourselves about issues, and various other means. Just because we are kids does not mean we can give up and watch our world and our heritage go to ruin. It is up to us to make certain that we fully utilize our capabilities to influence world policy by taking a proactive stand on the issue of human rights violation. If we do not stand up for the fundamental rights of our fellow human beings, then what is to prevent others from violating our rights? As John F. Kennedy once said, 'Together we shall save our planet [and ourselves], or together we shall perish in its flames,' and that is the philosophy we must embrace in order to fulfill our dream for a better, more beautiful world of unity, freedom, and peace.

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