26 November 2008


Described by Pope John Paul II as "one of the highest expressions of the human conscience of our time" the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) will be 60 years old on the 10th of December - Human Rights Day

The drafting of a declaration that gained the acceptance of the overwhelming majority of UN member states in 1948 (eight states abstained from voting, none opposed it) was a remarkable achievement. At present every nation on earth accepts the UDHR in principle if not in practice.

The UDHR is based on the values of human dignity, justice, equality and fairness.

Most importantly from the beginning the Declaration was seen to proclaim a set of rights that were universal, inalienable and indivisible.

This means that the fundamental rights to freedom from fear and want are the basic entitlements of every person, everywhere and at all times and they cannot be denied by any government. (except in special circumstances and only after due process)

The UDHR remains a key reference point for all those concerned about and advocating for the fundamental rights to life, security, freedom, food, shelter and education (to name a few), being available to all.


The most recent Chapter of the Christian Brothers held in Munnar, India earlier this year issued a call to “open our hearts to the cry of the poor and the earth and to be moved to prophetic action through advocacy and works of justice”

Most of us are well aware of the poverty and suffering that afflicts most of the world’s peoples and we are becoming increasingly aware of the ecological crisis we now face.

The challenge is how to respond.

A point at which the cry of the poor for justice, the urgent need to address the sustainability of life on our planet and the call for prophetic action all intersect is in the challenge for us to change to a simpler lifestyle.

The quotation at the head of this article has been variously attributed to Mahatma Ghandi or Elizabeth Ann Seaton, the first canonized saint born in the United States.

Over 80% of the worlds resources are consumed by just 20% of the world's population. The world’s resources are finite so the more that we consume, the less is available for others.

Quite apart from the inequity of the above situation it is also increasingly clear that our current western lifestyle is unsustainable.

For further reflection on this you may care to measure your ecological footprint; see where you fit in the Global Rich List; or especially as the Christmas season approaches, to consider ethically responsible shopping. (a US focussed website but with information abut multi-national brand names) or to explore other possibilities for living a simpler lifestyle.


A widely acclaimed documentary program produced by the Edmund Rice Centre in Sydney was screened on national television in Australia last week.

The documentary entitled "A Well-founded Fear" exposed the injustice of the treatment of rejected asylum seekers whose lives were endangered following their deportations by the previous Australian government.

The documentary portrays the human stories behind the research work the Centre has conducted over six years following up on rejected asylum seekers; research that involved interviews in 22 countries, with over 250 rejected asylum seekers.

Further information about the program and some suggestions regarding practical ways to support the work of the centre on this issue can be found at the above website.


"There is no clearer breach of human rights than the denial of the right to freedom.

Human trafficking is a terrible scourge. It degrades its victims and holds that a persons worth is not measured by their inherent dignity but by the money that can be made from their exploitation."

So said Australian Prime Minister Rudd in a message to the representatives of Australian Catholic Religious in Trafficking Against Humans (ACRATH) on the launch of their new website.

The website provides information about trafficking (which globally generates annual profits of an estimated $7-$10 billion dollars for traffickers), personal stories of these trapped into this modern-day form of slavery, latest news, a discussion forum and suggestions for action that concerned individuals can take up.

ACRATH is supported by Catholic Religious Australia the peak body representing all Religious Institutes and Societies of apostolic life in Australia which has nominated trafficking as an issue of special interest together with indigenous issues and multiculturalism.

12 November 2008


More than eight hundred non-government organizations and social movements from over one hundred countries around the world have joined together to demand a reform of the world’s financial system.

In their call for a Global Response to a Global Crisis the collection of people’s movements, organizations, coalitions and networks believe that the hastily convened G20 summit taking place in New York commencing on 15th November is fundamentally flawed, as it excludes the vast majority of people and countries who will be most affected by the economic crisis.

Those who have signed the online petition are demanding fundamental structural changes to transform the global economic and financial system so that crises such as the current one never happen again.

Petitioners call for the establishment of global economic structures and policies that put peoples´ needs first, that respect and promote human rights and social and environmental justice and that ensure decent jobs, sustainable livelihoods and essential services such as health, education, housing, water and clean energy.

They also demand an authentic democracy that gives people greater control over resources and the decisions that affect their lives.


Saturday 6th Dec has been designated as the day for a Global Day of Action on climate change. The demonstration will coincide with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks taking place in Poznan, Poland from Dec 1st-12th.

The call to action is addressed to world leaders and demands urgent and resolute action to prevent the catastrophic destabilisation of the global climate, by moving as rapidly as possible to a stronger emissions reductions treaty which is both equitable and effective in minimising dangerous climate change.

Noting that climate change will hit the poorest first and hardest, the call to action demands that long-industrialised countries take responsibility for climate change mitigation by immediately reducing their own emissions as well as investing in a clean energy revolution in the developing world.

Developed countries are also urged to take their fair share of the responsibility to pay for the adaptive measures that have to be taken, especially by low-emitting countries with limited economic resources.

As part of the lead-up to the Global day of Action the annual Walk Against Warming is taking place in a number of Australian cities this weekend.


Following the ratification by the 20th country earlier this year the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities came into force.

The convention was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in December 2006.

Countries that ratified the convention are now required to report regularly on their progress to a committee that oversees implementation of the convention.

There are eight guiding principles that underlie the Convention:-
- Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one's own choices, and independence of persons
- Non-discrimination
- Full and effective participation and inclusion in society
- Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity
-Equality of opportunity
-Equality between men and women, and
-Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities

According to the UN convention description, it "marks a shift in thinking about disability from a social welfare concern, to a human rights issue, which acknowledges that societal barriers and prejudices are themselves disabling."

The Convention also states that persons with disabilities should be guaranteed the right to inclusive education at all levels, regardless of age, without discrimination and on the basis of equal opportunity.


Recent days have seen an outpouring of goodwill, hope and optimism in the wake of the US Presidential election.

Whilst it is unlikely that president–elect Obama can possibly fulfill all the hopes and expectations placed upon him there is at least a realistic expectation that some of the worst features of the policies enacted by the Bush Administration may be at an end.

AVAAZ is a global web movement with a simple democratic mission: to close the gap between the world we have, and the world most people everywhere want. Utilising the potential of the internet, AVAAZ has mobilised millions around the world in support of selected campaigns.

The most recent initiative is to organize the sending of a message to Barak Obama congratulating him on his election and looking forward to his implementation of his campaign commitments to sign a strong new global treaty on climate change, close Guantanamo prison and end torture, withdraw carefully from Iraq, and double aid to fight poverty.

By visiting the above website you can endorse the message and add your name to the quarter of a million that have been gathered so far in four days.

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