“Where we come from does not determine who we can become. What we look like places no limits on what we can achieve. We should all have the right to express ourselves, all have the right to be heard, all have the right to be what we can be: To reach for the sky and touch the stars. No matter who we are, no matter whether we are man or woman, or rich or poor: My voice, my right. My voice counts.”
—Desmond Tutu, a key figure in the defeat of apartheid in South Africa, Nobel Prize Laureate, first black Archbishop of South Africa.
[Participation in public life is fundamental to democracy and effective human rights protection ©UN DPI New York] Desmond Tutu, the former Archbishop of South Africa is one of those supporting the My voice, my right. My voice counts on Human Rights Day, campaign on 10 December. Others lending their support, include: the lawyer and human rights activist from Pakistan, Asma Jahangir; Olympic gold medalist, Jamaican Usain Bolt; Roma rights campaigner, Lurie Caldarari; Chinese human rights defender Wu Qing; from Lebanon five year old school girl Maria Maaloui; and the South African Olympic and Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius.
On Human Rights Day 2012, the UN Human Rights Office is stressing that everybody has the right to have their voice heard and to have a role in making the decisions that shape their communities. Each one of us should be able to choose those people who will represent us in all governance institutions, to stand for public office, and to vote on the fundamental questions that shape our individual and collective destines.
In a statement marking the Day, High Commissioner Navi Pillay said those people who have gone onto the streets in the past few years are asking for “an end to a situation where governments simply decide what is best for their populations without even consulting them.”
“They are asking for their right to participate fully in the important decisions and policies affecting their daily lives,” Pillay said.
Human Rights Day will be celebrated this year in Geneva with an event which will canvass the views of a wide range of people whose experiences give them a unique perspective on inclusion and the right to participate in public life.
From Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the opposition National League for Democracy party will deliver keynote remarks via satellite link. The President of the International Federation of Human Rights, Souhayr Belhassen, a global rights campaigner especially for women’s rights will be present in Geneva, along with Chief Francis Kariuki from Kenya who uses tweets and text messages to unify and mobilize his community of mostly farmers.
Valeriu Nicolae from Romania, works for the rights of the Roma in Europe. He will be in Geneva to participate in the discussion, as will Romel Joseph, a blind musician from Haiti who will offer his perspective on the barriers to participation faced by the disabled. Joseph will also perform a program of classical music at the event with fellow musicians Tido Dejan, Victoria Jospeh and Iona Lupaşcu.
For the UN Human Rights Office, 10 December this year assumes a special significance because it will also see the launch of the Arabic language version of the Office website. The project will enable access to the wealth of information on the Human Rights website to all Arabic speakers.
In New York on Human Rights Day, the focus will be on the new media technologies,
and their influence on the global movements for greater participation.
At a special event in New York a number of guests from all regions of the world have been invited to discuss participation in public life, including: Australian, Jeremy Heimans, from Avaaz.org a global web movement aiming to bring people-powered politics to decision-making everywhere; Haitian, Chenet Torrilus, from the Haitian Association of Volunteers for Democracy which promotes youth participation in policy making; from Kenya, Pauline Wanja who runs Living in a Shanty Town which tries to help young people break the cycle of poverty; and from Egypt Ahmed Maher co founder of the pro democracy April 6 Youth Movement.
The UN Human Rights field offices, Civil Society groups in many countries and other UN organisations have also organized events to mark Human Rights Day.
The events in both Geneva and New York will be webcast ‘live’.