Human Rights Day 2020: Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights

Geneva, Switzerland – December 10, 2020

The theme of this year’s Human Rights Day observance: Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights, is closely related to the Covid-19 pandemic, the greatest challenge of our times. It highlights the “need to build back better by ensuring Human Rights are central to recovery efforts”. The Covid-19 crisis has unmasked the fact that human rights are far from being universal. In fact, we are confronted by deepening poverty, inequalities, injustice, discrimination, exclusion, destruction of the environment, and structural gaps in human rights protection.

The United Nations’ call to “Stand Up for Human Rights” puts human rights at the center of the post-Covid-19 world by engaging all in ending poverty, structural discrimination, and inequality; promoting and protecting economic, social, and cultural rights; encouraging the participation and solidarity of everyone; ensuring that the voices of the most affected and vulnerable are heard; and promoting sustainable development for people and the planet.

The Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice (IIMA) Human Rights Office in Geneva, early this year sent out a questionnaire to the IIMA members to determine the initiatives and projects they carry out in support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Their responses underscore the relevance of the work carried out in the different settings for it addresses the challenges of the times and improves the lives of millions of children, youth, women, families, minorities, the vulnerable and marginalized.

Certainly, these initiatives and projects contribute to the realization of the SDG and are effective paths to:

  • end poverty (SDG1) with the aid of income-generating projects, micro-credit;
  • reduce hunger (SDG2) and malnutrition by way of feeding and agricultural programs;
  • ensure healthy lives and promote the well-being of all (SDG3) through programs to reduce child mortality, foster children’s health care, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases, vaccinations, health education, and training of parents;
  • ensure inclusive, equitable, and quality education and promote lifelong learning for all (SDG4) by providing education at all levels to different groups, scholarships, educational support to indigent families, didactic materials, teacher training, human rights education, after-school activities, and the construction of educational facilities;
  • achieve gender equality and empower women and girls (SDG5) and eradicate early marriages, free education and skills training were offered to promote gender equality at work;
  • ensure environmental sustainability (SDG 6-7-9-12-13-14-15) through projects such as reforestation (tree /mangrove planting), the construction of wells, filters, tanks, sanitation facilities in rural areas, sensitization on environmental protection, and sustainable consumption.
  • eradicate violence against children and human trafficking, promote programs for birth registration, sensitization on human rights, peace, reconciliation, and youth empowerment to foster sustainable development, inclusive societies (SDG16), and revitalize partnership (SDG17), networking and solidarity with NGOs and government agencies and civil society actors;
  • promote decent work, youth employment, vocational training, capacity-building to ensure sustainable and inclusive economic growth (SDG8), reduce inequality (SDG10), enhance participation in decision-making, and programs for migrants.

Indeed, IIMA members’ commitment to protect and promote life, respect and love for every human being, and engagement in the educative mission are genuine expressions of – what Pope Francis calls social love“a force capable of inspiring new ways of approaching the problems of today’s world, of profoundly renewing structures, social organizations and legal system from within” (Encyclical Fratelli Tutti n.183).