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70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to be celebrated

By Staff | Oct 19, 2018

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Championed by former United Nations Commission on Human Rights Chair Eleanor Roosevelt, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was unanimously adopted on Dec. 10, 1948 by the United Nations, “with abstentions from the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian SSR and Yugoslavia,” according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Setting precedents for international human rights law, the declaration “comprises 30 articles that contain a comprehensive listing of key civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights,” according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. These rights range from the human right to not experience torture, to the right for humans to assemble and form unions or other groups.

Since the establishment of the declaration, many legal and governmental proceedings have based their treatment of human rights cases on the statutes set up in the declaration, which is non-binding to members of the United Nations.

While people around the world have been celebrating the declaration oo Human Rights Day on Dec. 10 every year since 1950, this year, Shepherdstown will be joining in on the celebration, although at an earlier date in the year.

On Oct. 27 at noon, the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will be celebrated at St. Agnes Catholic Church’s Parish Center at 106 South Duke Street. The event will feature a panel discussion on the declaration’s importance and the need to protect human rights internationally, with Shepherd University Assistant Professor of English James Pate, Shepherd University Lecturer of English Christopher Wilson and PLANT Co-Director Catherine Halvey Goodwin as panel members.

“It’s pretty close to national Human Rights Day on December 10, but December 10 wasn’t a good time for us to organize, so we chose the end of October,” Goodwin said, mentioning she hopes the event will encourage the community to become more aware of international human rights needs.

“I hope that we’ll add the voice of the Shepherdstown community to international voices being raised right now, about the urgent need to promote, stand up for and live the message of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in our time, given the major challenges before us. It’s such a huge issue,” Goodwin said. “I’m hoping it will invigorate us to take on the struggles previous generations have taken on. I’m hoping we’ll do our part to fight for human rights.”

According to Goodwin, human rights is related to environmental rights, since the environment’s health is closely connected with human health. As co-director of the 501(c)3 organization, Partners for the Land & Agricultural Needs of Traditional Peoples, Goodwin has worked for 30 years for the protection of human rights in the Amazon in Brazil, and she hopes sharing what she has learned about human rights in Brazilian Amazonia and in sub-Saharan Africa will encourage community members to become involved with PLANT or other human rights organizations.

“I’d like to think of Shepherdstown as a very engaged community from very diverse backgrounds, so I would hope many people would come and think about the kind of leadership we need — we need the leadership of old and young alike, to make a difference right now,” Goodwin said. “We as a community want to be part of those who are giving their voice, who are making sure that human rights are being upheld, and we want to promote that in all we do.”

To learn more, visit www.plantpartners.org.