It’s fitting in many ways that Human Rights Day falls on December 10, just as we’re taking stock of the past year and looking to the next. The day marks the anniversary of the 1948 signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and gives us an opportunity to see how far we’ve come, and how much we have left to do.
This year in human rights in the U.S. has been inevitably marked by the presidency of Donald Trump. Regretfully, in too many instances, the divisive rhetoric of his campaign found its way to becoming reality in the form of discriminatory and dangerous policies.
Recognizing that reality, it is imperative that all of us speak up louder and more forcefully than ever for human rights in the coming year.
Now more than ever, we need everyone who felt concern, who found themselves speaking out or being moved to action this year to re-double our efforts. While far from perfect, the historic role of the U.S. as a leader on the world stage committed to creating international norms and institutions to advance human rights has been well recognized. However, our seat at the global table of countries that respect human rights is no longer quite as secure.
For example, President Trump’s endorsement of oppressive governments in Turkey and the Philippines signals that he is content to cede the U.S. role as a force for positive global change. His coziness with dictators poses grave consequences for millions around the world.
During the campaign, he blasted his predecessor’s efforts to address the Syrian crisis. Yet today, over five million refugees remain displaced, and his Muslim ban slams the door in the face of those fleeing the same violence that he condemns. If we are to achieve a safer world for all, these hateful policies must be opposed at every turn.
The greatness of a leader is not defined by the support of those who intimidate, persecute, and commit crimes against humanity. It’s also not achieved by taking aim at the press and press freedoms to critique government actions. And it is certainly not accomplished by neglecting a responsibility to create a safer, more rights-respecting world.
The UDHR was drafted in recognition that the world must never again forget our individual and collective humanity. On this day – and every day – we reflect and fight for equality, justice and human dignity for all the world’s people.
Our country’s strength will not be found in an angry tweet which divides or fans the flames of hate and intolerance. Our strength comes from the very real idea that we must stand up for human rights and speak out against those who would trample them.
We stand up for human rights defenders everywhere across the globe, and with those who are eager for an America that stands by its ideals. This is the America that we believe in. There are those that think the U.S. has lost its way on human rights. Let’s work to prove them wrong.
Margaret Huang, an advocate for human rights and racial justice for more than two decades, is the Executive Director of Amnesty International USA.