Everyday human rights actions make lives in dignity and hope possible


Anca Enache, the Senior Adviser on Human Rights and Civil Society encourages us to boldly promote human dignity, equality and justice for all with everyday human rights actions.

Nainen seisoo punaisessa mekossa katsoen kameraan.

The end of 2023 marked the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948, the Declaration manifested the equal dignity of each person and affirmed that human rights are essential for achieving freedom, justice, and peace in the world.

From that moment until the present day, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights paved the way for many human rights treaties, principles, national legislations, action plans, and practices, which have undoubtedly contributed to the promotion and protection of human dignity worldwide. It inspired local and transnational civic actions, solidarities, and partnerships that strive for justice and establish foundations for lives in dignity.

At times when equality, justice, and peace for all have still not been achieved, global armed conflicts are escalating, and many lives are impacted by the erosion of economic, social, and environmental rights and by an increase in hate speech, the 75th anniversary was hardly a celebration.

Unfairly, the most vulnerable are most affected by local and global crises. A reason to be concerned is that in Europe, and Finland as well, there have been too many political leaders who question the legitimacy and power of human rights law and endanger democracies and the rule of law.

Truly, much remains to be done until the commitments of the Declaration become part of everyone’s everyday life, everywhere. But the 75th anniversary was an important moment for the Deaconess Foundation to acknowledge our colleagues, partners, collaborators, volunteers, and community members in different countries. These are the individuals and communities, organizations, institutions, and companies who put their strengths and skills into deeds that sustain human dignity.

To give a few examples, in 2023, our colleagues from the NGOs Roma Women Fund “Chiricli” and the Roma Women’s and Girls Network “Moldsolidaritate” made sure that the voices and needs of Roma refugees were heard and fulfilled in Moldova and Ukraine, and wider in Europe. Through the strength of partnership, the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights and the Roma Women Fund Chiricli raised the issues of Roma who lack ID documents in Ukraine and developed and piloted a procedure for ID registration in Mukachevo locality. As a result, at least 40 Roma women and men received their IDs, which are fundamental to their human rights and dignity.

Through the collaborative actions of the Jesuit Refugee Service Kosovo, the Kosova Rehabilitation Centre for Torture, and the Kosovo Ministry of Internal Affairs, returnee and refugee women received support, and public servants have better knowledge about how to support them. Together, the NGO Voice of Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians and the Kosovo Office of Good Governance advocated successfully for the establishment of an interinstitutional working group against early marriage and for an online platform where cases of discriminatory treatment can be reported. The Women of Faith network supported community members who address the acute needs of those displaced by war in South Sudan.

In 2024 the Deaconess Foundation will continue to promote equality and non-discrimination, access to economic and social rights, and participation among Roma, refugees, displaced persons, young people and victims of war and violence together with its partners.

“Peace is a question of will. All conflicts can be settled, and there are no excuses for allowing them to become eternal,” said President Martti Ahtisaari as he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008.

His words can be interpreted as a powerful expression of hope, duty, and co-existence. A call to act since hope is not passive but requires actions. Hope is about human agency and civic actions. A call not to find justifications in front of human struggles and suffering. Hope calls for justice. Promoting human dignity is also a question of will, of duty, of acting. A question of not finding justifications for not acting.

As we start the year 2024, let’s cast aside any excuses. Let us boldly and decisively work for dignity, equality, and justice for all!

The writer is the Senior Adviser on Human Rights and Civil Society of the Deaconess Foundation’s Development Cooperation Programme and a member of the Human Rights Delegation of the Finnish Human Rights Centre.

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