Today marks anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

December 10, 2010
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Reporter Rebecca Berfanger wrote this blog post.

To celebrate the anniversary of the United Nation’s proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec. 10, 1948, organizations around the world have celebrated the words in that document on or near Dec. 10.

At Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis, various human rights groups have come together since at least 2008, the 60th anniversary, and every year the celebration has grown.

This year, supporters of human rights in Indiana met in the law school’s atrium on Dec. 3, the last day of the last week of classes before final exams started.

After enjoying free dinner from India Garden and music courtesy of DJ Kyle Long of Cultural Cannibals, who has provided entertainment since the inaugural event, attendees listened to speakers share their viewpoints and activism, including their work with undocumented immigrants, how they have aided victims of human trafficking, efforts in Indiana to protect workers, and how art can express violations of these rights.

Following a brief introduction from LL.M. student Avril Rua, a lawyer at the Legal Aid Center of Eldoret, Kenya, Ian McIntosh, director of international partnerships and anthropology professor for Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, discussed the parable of the starfish.

Many people raised their hands to acknowledge they had heard the story before, including myself.

He then told the story: after a million starfish were thrown from the ocean onto the shore, a man walking down the beach noticed a boy throwing them back in, one by one. When the man approached the boy to tell him he couldn’t possibly save all the starfish, there were simply too many, the boy then threw in another one, and said, “but I can save this one.”

This is a good way to look at helping others whose human rights are being violated, McIntosh said. But the real challenge should be how to create systemic change that will prevent the starfish from ending up on the shore in the first place, or keep them in the ocean after they are thrown back.

Following McIntosh, professor George Edwards, director of the law school’s Program in International Human Rights Law, moderated a panel discussion of eight speakers, including artists and activists.

While they presented too much information in that hour to include here, speakers included:

- Latino Youth Collective, whose members were involved in a hunger strike for the passage of the DREAM Act, which would offer a path to citizenship for immigrant youth who have spent most of their lives in the United States;

- artists of the Invisible Frontier Art Exhibition, works from which were displayed at the back of the room;

- Center for Victim and Human Rights, which helps victims of human trafficking;

- Central Indiana Jobs with Justice, which has been working with hotel workers in Indianapolis to receive a fair wage; and

- UNITE-HERE, an organization that represents workers in low-wage industries that include many immigrant workers and women, including hospitality, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, laundry, and airport industries.

While informative, the event was meant to be a call to action, and a reminder that the ideal that every person is entitled to certain rights through the UDHR shouldn’t only be one day, but every day.

As one speaker said, human rights violations take place every day – but that doesn’t mean nothing can be done to help those who are oppressed, for whatever reason. People can make a meaningful difference, whether that’s through pro bono work for a legal aid organization or volunteering for a charity of one’s choice.

While you can’t save all the starfish, you can still make a difference, for one starfish at a time.

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  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

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