“Depriving people of their human rights is calling into question their own humanity.” Nelson Mandela
Washington, DC, December 10, 2018 – Human Rights Day is celebrated today, December 10th, in commemoration of a historic milestone in the progress toward worldwide recognition of fundamental human rights. In 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That was the first document adopted by a multi-regional organization containing a broad spectrum of political, civil, social, cultural, and economic rights recognized as being “for all peoples and nations.”
Since the approval of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 70 years ago, great progress has been made throughout the world in recognizing the rights of diverse populations, respecting human dignity, and creating legal instruments that lay the foundation for eliminating inequality, exclusion, and discrimination in nations.
Nonetheless, there are many human rights that continue to be violated throughout the world – and Latin America and the Caribbean are no exception. In countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Panama, and Peru, human rights defenders continue working strenuously to promote and protect the human rights of populations in marginal conditions, whether due to their national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Likewise, there exists an alarming degree of systematic and structural violence faced today by Afro-descendants, LGBTI persons, women, boys, girls, adolescents, persons with disabilities, and older adults, who in situations of extreme vulnerability continue to confront discriminatory policies and deficient implementation plans to effectively guarantee fundamental rights.
We see a worrisome weakening of the guarantee and protection of human rights throughout the world committed by States, especially in the case of Latin America and the Caribbean, a product of the high indices of violence, waves of homicides, arbitrary detentions, forced disappearances, and rising and systematic violence against human rights defenders, journalists, and independent media outlets in the region, all of which serves to increase the state of impunity in which Latin American countries have historically lived.
Indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants continue being the victims of multiple forms of aggravated discrimination, among other things, related to the negation of economic, political, and cultural rights, including the rights to the land and free, prior, and informed consultation vis-à-vis the use of ancestral, historically inhabited spaces. LGBTI groups continue being the target of diverse forms of hate and intolerance that intensifies the state of defenselessness and imminent violation of the rights to freedom of expression, identity, and autonomy.
The elevated number of persons and entire communities in the region facing violations of their fundamental rights is thoroughly alarming, as it is a clear sign of the backward movement in legislation, policies, and practices implemented by the States, which far from guaranteeing and protecting human rights to ensure the effective enjoyment of them, turn to repressive tactics, making wrongful use of force and the justice systems to silence the denunciations of dissident persons or groups, which translates into an unsustainable increase in the violations of fundamental rights, as well as corrupt motives that perpetuate impunity and injustice in the territories.
The International Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights (Race & Equality) defends the position that the struggle for rights requires joining forces in a commitment to transform societies so as to ensure scenarios that are more just, diverse, equitable, and free. We call on all States in the region to make a real, effective commitment to undertake efforts to implement policies that promote justice, recognition, peace, and inclusive social, economic, and cultural development that guarantees tranquility and the full enjoyment by communities of their freedoms and the possibility to construct a region in a participatory, dialogical, and differentiated manner.