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We must push back in defence of human rights

Graphic: Jose Luis 'Chito' Gascon, CHR Chairperson, speaks at a solidarity function

The Chair of the Philippines Commission on Human Rights has urged people to stand against the "democratic recession" taking place across the globe.

The promise of human rights has been broken and the time has come for people around the world to stand against the current "democratic recession", said Philippine Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Jose Luis 'Chito' Gascon.

In an article published in TIME magazine, Gascon wrote that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – adopted 70 years ago – was heralded "as a standard by which all nations would abide".

"Since its creation, the world has painstakingly constructed an entire edifice of human rights norms, establishing domestic and international protection mechanisms to ensure the fulfilment of the UDHR's promise."

Today, however, "human rights are existentially challenged" in countries across the globe, Gascon said.

For example, in the Philippines, the "war on drugs" pursued by President Rodrigo Duterte had seen impunity reach "unprecedented levels".

Graphic: Woman holds a young man who has been shot

Gascon lamented the rise of the populist strongman and the "false and even dystopian dichotomy" they offer a frustrated public.

In a complex society of competing interests, Gascon argued, the strongman will present "an alternative of greater safety, security and stability, in exchange for diminished freedoms".

"We can and we must direct a righteous rage towards this trend, in a manner that is both purposive and strategic," Gascon said.

He urged people to build solidarity and "affirm a politics of civility and inclusion, while employing non-violent strategies in our parliaments, our courts, our cyberspaces, and our streets".

"Let us be emboldened by an unrelenting will to stand up for justice, and an undying faith in humanity's capacity for good. If we do not struggle, we will not overcome. We must push back," he said.

Gascon said there is no battle that is more important than restoring and upholding democracy and human rights.

"Democracy and human rights are important enablers of human development that will create conditions for people to reach their full potential. As long as persons in any part of the world remain deprived of their fundamental rights and freedom, we are all diminished," he said.

"If we are unable to ensure the respect, protection and fulfilment of human rights and fundamental freedoms of all – especially the poorest and the most marginalized – then the universal human rights project will indeed mean nothing."

The full article is available from the website of TIME magazine.

Date: 11 June 2018

Image credits

  1. Jose Luis 'Chito' Gascon, CHR Chairperson, speaks at a solidarity function - Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines
  2. Woman holds a young man who has been shot - Philippine Daily Inquirer/Raffy Lerma