International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies
 
FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT 

 

 

November 9, 2010

Dear IAOHRA Members, 

It was wonderful seeing many of you at our Annual IAOHRA Conference in Mobile, Alabama! 

During our time together, we had the opportunity to explore concrete ways for IAOHRA members to advance opportunity and equality using international human rights standards and strategies.  We are excited by the enthusiasm that our membership has expressed for this project.  The strong attendance and participation at the conference sessions on this issue demonstrate growing awareness and support for state and local agencies as human rights promoters and protectors.  We welcome, too, the participation of federal government representatives Scott Busby of the National Security Council and Nina Schou from the State Department, as well as civil and human rights leaders Wade Henderson from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Karen Narasaki from the Asian Amercian Justice Center and Hilary Shelton from the NAACP’s Washington Bureau.  More information on how state and local agencies can engage with the human rights framework, including materials discussed during the conference, are now available here

We are thrilled to report that the membership adopted Resolution #1, affirming support for the Human Rights at Home Campaign, and the Campaign’s call for federal human rights mechanisms that coordinate and support state and local human rights agencies’ efforts to monitor, promote and protect civil and human rights through dedicated staff, education and resources.. 

By adopting the Resolution, each member also committed to “utilize Human Rights Day, December 10, 2010, to promote human rights in its local community” through activities “intended to raise awareness of the UDHR and encourage residents to take action to support its principles.”  The resolution can be found here

As Human Rights Day approaches, we are writing to share several ideas for how IAOHRA members can fulfill this commitment, drawing from previous efforts of IAOHRA members’ agencies.  You can celebrate human rights day and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by taking one or more of the following actions: 

SUPPORT A PROCLAMATION RECOGNIZING HUMAN RIGHTS DAY.  You can urge your local legislature, council or board of elected officials to pass a proclamation declaring December 10, 2010 to be Human Rights Day. Universal Declaration of Human Rights Flyer

  • Last year, Human Rights Day Proclamations were made by Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, The Mayor of Evansville, Indiana and the Mayor and City Council of Tacoma as a result of IAOHRA members’ efforts. 

PROPOSE A RESOLUTION COMMITTING TO THE PRINCIPLES OF THE UDHR.  Urge your commission or other agency partners to adopt a resolution committing to work to advance policies and practices consistent with the UDHR.

  • In 2009, the City of Chicago adopted a resolution encouraging the city to adopt practices and policies consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty which the U.S. signed, but not yet ratified.

SUBMIT AN OP-ED TO YOUR LOCAL NEWS MEDIA.  A local newspaper story or interview can commemorate the UDHR, noting the critical role the U.S. played in drafting the document and recognizing the role of human rights in addressing an issue of importance to your community. 

  • Last year, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination distributed an op-ed regarding the increasing number of state and local human rights initiatives, the Commissioner of the New York State Division of Human Rights commemorated Human Rights Day by writing an op-ed that was published in two newspapers and the Nashville Tennessee Metro Human Relations Commission published an op-ed describing the role of the U.S. in drafting the Universal Declaration and discussing the Commissions’ recent human rights work. 

E-MAIL AGENCIES/PARTNERS/STAFF.  This type of communication can remind partners and constituents that December 10 is Human Rights Day, urge them to recognize it officially, and describe how your work adheres to the principles of the UDHR. 

  • In 2009, the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission sent a message to over 2,000 city employees and 150 partners recognizing December 10 as Human Rights Day and the King County Office of Civil Rights sent a message to employees, connecting its Equity and Social Justice Initiative to the UDHR.

SPONSOR AN EVENT ON HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES.  Events celebrating local human rights heroes through awards or addressing community issues provide an important forum to celebrate Human Rights Day.

  • Last year, the Illinois Department of Human Rights presented a forum on race and public policy, while the Evansville-Vanderburgh County Human Relations Commission celebrated the inauguration of the University of Southern Indiana’s Center for Social Justice.
  • The Tennessee Human Rights Commission, the Seattle Human Rights Commission, and the Seattle Office for Civil Rights held awards ceremonies to celebrate human rights advocates in their communities.

PARTNER WITH LOCAL CITIZENS OR ORGANIZATIONS.  Work with local sports teams to encourage them to speak out publicly on local human rights issues or partner with local schools and libraries to encourage human rights education for youth through art and writing competitions. 

HUMAN RIGHTS POSTERS.  Post the UDHR in your office or make copies available to your partners and constituents. 

Sample templates that you can use for an op-ed, a human rights day resolution and an email are included as an Appendix I.  A copy of the UDHR is attached to this email.  Finally, many of the 2009 examples described above are on IAOHRA’s website

Your efforts to build support and awareness for human rights at the state and local level are essential to promoting and protecting human rights.  We look forward to supporting you in your efforts to celebrate Human Rights Day. 

Please let us know if you have any questions by emailing IAOHRAoutreach@law.columbia.edu and iaohra@sso.org.  And please use this email to let us know how you fulfill your pledge to celebrate Human Rights Day 2010.  IAOHRA members’ efforts will be highlighted on IAOHRA's website. 

Click here for sample documents.

 

Sincerely yours,

Leon Russell, President
International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies

Risa E. Kaufman, Executive Director
Human Rights Institute Columbia Law School 

Robin S. Toma, Executive Director 
Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission