By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
The United Nations, The Gambia officially launched the Human Rights 75, an initiative commemorating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on 10th October 2023. This also marked the start of a countdown to 75 Years since the UDHR was launched back on 10th December 1948. The event which was graced by dignitaries from Government Institutions, Civil Society and school children, started with an opening ceremony which featured musical performances from a school choir.
UN Committed to Human Rights in The Gambia
First to address the delegates in attendance was the UN Resident Coordinator for The Gambia, Ms Seraphine Wakana, who informed dignitaries that “the Declaration guarantees our rights without distinction of nationality, place of residence, gender, national or ethnic origin, language, or any other status”.
She highlighted how the UN The Gambia Office led by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has embarked on a yearlong initiative, Human Rights 75, whose objective is to celebrate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and contribute to concrete progress on the promise of freedom, equality, justice and accountability”.
The UN Resident Coordinator highlighted that “The Gambia has made significant efforts to address inequalities, especially with regards to the plight of key populations that face stigma and discrimination”.
Ms Wakana concluded by affirming the UN The Gambia’s “commitment to the Government and all partners as [they] continue to strive towards the full realisation of everyone’s rights in The Gambia, particularly vulnerable groups” and that the UN’s new Cooperation Framework hinges on the promotion and protection of human rights and leaving no one behind.
NHRC Chairperson: Human Rights Are Universal
The Chairperson of the Gambia’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Mr Emmanuel Joof highlighted the main pillars in which the UDHR was drafted around and these he said include “Dignity, freedom, Equality and justice”.
Since the formation of the UDHR, 75 years ago it “has since served as the foundation for an expanding system of human rights protection that today focuses also on vulnerable groups such as persons with disabilities, children’s rights, rights of women, indigenous peoples, migrants’ rights, older people’s rights and the list is expanding” said Chairperson Joof.
He called the UDHR “a reference point on all matters relating to human rights” which he says are not Eurocentric. “Usually when we talk about Human Rights people say what Rights are they talking about. These are Eurocentric Rights given to us by Foreigners coming. These are Universal rights and is a common standard of achievements for all people and of all nations” explained the NHRC Chairperson.
TANGO: The Gambia Can Build a More Inclusive and Equitable Society
The Chairperson of The Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (TANGO) Mrs Yadicon Eribo commenced her speech by highlighting how inequalities continue to “persist in our societies, manifesting in various forms such as income disparities, limited access to equality education and healthcare, discrimination based on gender, race or social status, and unequal distribution of power and resources”. The TANGO Chair stressed that “these inequalities undermine the principles of justice and fairness and hinder social cohesion and sustainable development”.
To address some of these inequalities she recommended some actions to be taken. In her view, The Gambia “must prioritize education and awareness to leverage the Universal Declaration of Human Rights effectively”. She emphasised her belief that it’s possible to “create a more inclusive and equitable society by nurturing a culture of respect for human rights”.
After the three opening speeches, a school choir stole the show with two emotional songs and a play highlighting the 30 Articles of the UHR. Introducing the student choir, Ms Yvonne Masarakufa from the UN, informed delegates that the choir comprises human rights clubs from different schools that have “partnered to form a choir” which took weeks of preparation.
Hon Kinteh: UDHR is a Tool to Address the World’s Challenges
After the moving rendition, the Hon Minister for Gender, Children and Social Welfare, Mrs Fatou Kinteh took the podium to deliver the keynote. She started by explaining that the UDHR is “a tool to address the world’s biggest challenges, from the triple planetary crisis, skyrocketing inequalities, gender discrimination and backlash, insecurity and conflict, as well as a rise in hate speech, disinformation and polarization.
Minister Kinteh recalled that “since 2016 The Gambia has made significant efforts and strides to towards good governance, democratic consolidation and institutional reforms to uphold rule of law and guarantee protection of human rights”. She added that “the New Development Plan 2023-2027 has a strong commitment to address issues that fuel inequalities”.
Hon Kinteh concluded by highlighting that The Gambia Government “accepted the Universal Periodic Review Recommendations that address inequalities such as [to] continue efforts to promote gender inequalities” which include the continued promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women and girls for sustained economic development and the enactment of the Disabilities Act and subsequent development of the Disability Policy” amongst others.