VIVAT members at the 61st Annual DPI/NGO Conference commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was held during 3-5 September 2008 at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, France
For the past 60 years, the DPI/NGO Conference had been held at the UN’s New York Headquarters. The 61st Annual DPI/NGO Conference was in Paris, France, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It marked the first time in the Conference’s history that it was held outside of New York.
Goals of the Conference:
- To provide a forum for diverse actors, including civil society, governments, media, academia, and the private sector to discuss timely human rights issues and their role in addressing them; - To reflect on the challenges confronted by human rights organizations at the international, national and local levels and articulate measures to address those challenges; - To identify the most effective ways in which civil society is yielding a positive impact on the respect for human rights, and acknowledge those contributions; - To engage human rights defenders, victims of human rights violations, members of socially and economically marginalized communities, civil society from regions that are often underrepresented in UN fora, as well as youth, in informing the discussions around human rights; - To underscore the gap between existing policies for the protection and promotion of human rights and their implementation, and recommend ways to advance accountability; - To impact the awareness about human rights issues today among various sectors, including academia, media, the private sector and the broad public, targeting groups that are typically not informed by UN and NGO activities.
VIVAT Participation: Four members of VIVAT (one from New York and three from Europe) actively took part in this conferences. The conference provided the participants like VIVAT with a greater knowledge of measures and goals that can be achieved by working together with the United Nations and its partners to understand and reaffirm human rights for all.
The DPI/NGO Conference helped us to appreciate still further the centrality of issues related to Human Rights in development work and in our common mission. It also helped us to deepen our awareness of the importance of having personal contact with the grass-roots work of human rights defenders and those who are persecuted in various ways as a result of violations of their basic rights and responsibilities. The many important speakers at the conference brought this message home in their personal testimonies and in their very presence. We found it most inspiring to be able to see and listen to many prominent figures in the history of human rights and We are convinced that this personal experience is what helps us to deepen our own conviction and commitment.
The Paris Conference also deepened our awareness of the important part that NGOs play in the work of human rights, how this needs to be understood more and more, and also the importance of international institutions such as the United Nations, various treaties, covenants, International Law and the role of the International Criminal Court, especially in promoting accountability within sovereign states. UN conferences open many doors to networking with other committed people and organisations. They help us to respond to global issues, and introduce us to various movements.
The DPI/NGO Conference in Paris listened to the personal testimonies of many victims of human rights abuses as well as workers for human rights. The presence of Ambassador Stéphane Hessel, who was 30 years old when he participated in the drafting of the original Declaration on Human Rights made it an historical occasion. Stéphane made reference to René Cassin, Eleanor Roosevelt and others who were present at the drafting of the original declaration. It was a privilege to hear these first hand reports and to put a face on some of these historical people whom we have only read about before.
It was also a privilege to be present when Ingrid Betancourt addressed the Conference and told of her nearly seven years in captivity in Columbia. She spoke of the nature of human rights being self-evident even in countries where they have not yet been enshrined by law. We listened to debates between different actors in the field of human rights including instrumental figures in the drawing up of the Earth Charter, members of important organisations such as Human Rights Watch, UN Special Envoys, the Deputy Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and a host of other speakers whose lives have been dedicated to building a better world. It was immensely interesting to listen to these people and to have the opportunity to meet other participants and to share common interests and challenges.
On reflection we believe that we have been given a strong mandate to promote global action on behalf of the poor and persecuted