Will you take the call to protect Human Rights?
Sometimes it’s the call that isn’t picked up that makes all the difference.
This was the concept behind a street action organised by young human rights activists in Kosovo, with support from UNMIK, for Human Rights Day on 10 December. A phone rang continuously - unanswered - for an hour as young volunteers gathered to share information on human rights – as well as to provide contact details for Kosovo institutions.
The SRSG and Head of UNMIK Caroline Ziadeh attended the event and spoke with the young activists about their human rights concerns and the importance of human rights protection – including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), signed 74 years ago.
“What is most important about this document is that it starts with the people, it is for the people and by the people,” SRSG Ziadeh shared, expressing the collective and universal nature of the UDHR.
“We will continue to work hand-in-hand with all relevant actors to safeguard the spirit of the Universal Declaration and human rights of all people, and leave no one behind.”
The day’s literal call to action was uncomfortable for many, according to 17-year-old volunteer Rita.
“The majority of people passing through are saying ‘Just pick up’ and it is interesting that as an action it is created to make you feel uncomfortable. The situations we hear about and the cases that are happening are not comfortable and very tragic.” She said the youngsters from the Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR) hoped to inspire others to protect human rights wherever and whenever needed.
Harassment remains a major human rights concern and most young women she knew had experienced some form of harassment:
“What I see most of the time is a highly increasing level of violence against women and it is not addressed properly. I know for myself, as a young woman, I get harassed too. And I know that every woman in my life can talk about many cases when they were harassed or were subject to violence and I think this needs to be addressed urgently.”
Fellow volunteer Alisan, who is from the Roma community, explained that discrimination towards minority communities was still common and many felt they had nowhere to turn.
“As a 19-year-old from a Roma family, the biggest challenge is whether there is anyone to call or ask for help when someone has used a bad name or something like that. Kosovo has good rules on this, but they have not been implemented properly,” he said.
UNMIK Head of Human Rights Jerome Bouyjou congratulated the young people on their innovative action that served as an effective reminder to institutions of their obligations and accountability as duty-bearers: “An unanswered call is something we are all too familiar with – and we hope to see increased responsiveness on the call for human rights across the board.
“We celebrate this year’s Human Rights Day theme, ‘Dignity, Freedom and Justice For All’, in recognition of next year’s 75th anniversary of the UDHR. These 30 articles remain fundamental for international human rights law today and into the future.”