12 September 2011
Geneva—United Nations representatives, human rights NGOs and leaders of civil society joined youth delegates from 30 countries at the 8th Annual International Human Rights Summit in Geneva August 26-28, 2011.
With the United Nations estimating $7 billion dollars generated by human trafficking annually, with 700,000 to 4 million women and children sold into forced prostitution, labor and other forms of exploitation each year, human rights education has never been more urgent.
The theme of this year’s summit was, “to create leaders through human rights education,” and included an entire day devoted to training youth delegates in leadership, communication and audio-visual skills to help them maximize their efforts.
Some 250 attendees packed the Hotel President Wilson event hall to capacity August 26—the very room where Youth for Human Rights International (YHRI) was launched 10 years ago.
The youth delegates set the tone of the event with a procession featuring the 30 flags of the countries they represented. Master of ceremonies Dr. Mary Shuttleworth, Founder and President of YHRI, welcomed the youth and honored guests.
The Summit featured multi-media presentations covering the human rights activities carried out by the youth delegates in their countries over the past 12 months.
Speakers included a former . Assistant Secretary General, several representatives of permanent missions to the . and non-government organization (NGO) consultants to the United Nations, and youth delegates from Belgium, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Central African Republic, Denmark, Vietnamese Community, Russia, Pakistan and Mexico.
A highlight of the event was the presentation of Human Rights Hero Awards to five humanitarians for their work to guarantee the rights of others and promote human rights education:
- Mr. Antonio Lopez, Human Rights Undersecretary of Chiapas, Mexico accepted a Human Rights Hero Award on behalf of Juan Sabines Guerrero, Governor of the State of Chapias, for his work to incorporate the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the new state constitution giving it the force of law to the people for his constituents.
- Mr. Martin Ponce Rubio, Territorial Director of Jalalpa, Mexico, for nearly two decades of championing youth and for establishing educational and art programs to inform young people of their rights and combat crime and drug trafficking.
- Vice President of the Association for Human Rights and Tolerance in Italy, for building schools in Ghana for thousands of young children who would otherwise not benefit from the right to education and for providing human rights education to the Tibetan Children in Exile in Dharamshala, India.
- Ms. Joanne Tawfilis, Founding Executive Director of the Art Miles Mural Project, for promoting peace by involving children from countries throughout the world in painting murals.
- Dustin McGahee, President of Youth for Human Rights for Tampa, Florida, for involving YHRI chapters from around the world in the International Walk for Human Rights he established to commemorate Human Rights Day on December 10.
Speaking of the importance of the Annual Human Rights Summit, Mr. Rubio said, “We must build youth leadership to disseminate and defend the Universal Declaration of Human Rights towards a more viable society for present and future humanity.”
The 2011 Summit was co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Haiti, the Human Rights Department of the Church of Scientology International, Village Suisse NGO/ECOSOC, the Ariel Foundation International, and the Youth for Human Rights Chapters of Geneva and Vaud, Switzerland.
This year’s 30 youth delegates were selected from the nearly 1,000 applicants who submitted human rights essays with evidence of their work to promote human rights education throughout the past year.