*Dawn over the Sahara; I took the photo in 1997 from the cockpit of a Sudan Airways jet over the Sahara north of Khartoum, shortly before dawn. The sun is below the horizon but, at 35,000 feet, it blazes in dazzling colours on the underside of the clouds. The desert below would still have been in darkness.
Human Rights Education

Democracy and human rights are under threat or in short supply in most countries of the world. In western societies, the combination of advancing computer and database  technology and failing social structures creates the method, the opportunity and the motive for an accelerating erosion of many of the freedoms enshrined in the 30 Articles of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

In countries where democracy is still a fragile flower or has yet to open its buds to the sun, overtly authoritarian governments exploit and even terrorise their populations. Too often, the western governments, or elements of these, covertly support the authoritarian regimes to protect their perceived interests while overtly, and hypocritically, attacking them for their human rights record.

Against this backdrop, Lord Duncan McNair decided that something needed to be done to make human rights a reality, not an idealistic dream. An invitation to address an Iranian democracy group about the role of his grandfather, Sir Arnold Duncan McNair, in a 1952 case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), gave him the opportunity to speak about the educational programme created by Youth for Human Rights International (YHRI). A simple lesson plan and human rights simplified so that school children can understand them have taken the original purpose of Eleanor Roosevelt, and others who created the UDHR, around the world to hundreds of thousands of young and older people. Millions have been reached with this message.

The talk was well received and Lord Duncan was asked to return for another evening event to tell more about and discuss the YHRI program, but he was concerned about how to follow that up effectively. What would happen after that evening? And what about the social violations of human rights, the position of women in many societies and the exploitation of children or human trafficking? He suggested they set up training of human rights advocates in Farsi in London and the Farsi language human rights training programme was born. Ten workshops, 30 Articles and then go and spread the word. Discussions are under way to do the same in Turkish and Arabic with videos of the workshops to be put up on You Tube for others to follow the same path.

The final section of the Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights gives us, as advocates for human rights, our marching orders:

Now, therefore,
   The General Assembly,
   Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard for achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

As Mary Shuttleworth, Founder and CEO of Youth for Human Rights International, says, "Think of the 30 human rights like a bicycle wheel. Article 29 tells of our responsibility to share the human rights with others. That is the hub of the wheel, without the hub the spokes fall out and the wheel does not go round." Then there is the rim. At the rim are the advocates, telling others and widening the circles of knowledge about human rights till all the circles join up and we truly have a world of peace and justice. To find out more
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Dawn over the Sahara
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Duncan McNair © 2014*