2 September 2009
Attended by human rights advocates, officials, diplomatic corps and NGOs, the three-day summit was opened by president and founder of Youth for Human Rights International, Dr. Mary Shuttleworth, key organizer of the three-day conference, and co-organizer Mr. Adalbert Nouga of nongovernmental organization Village Suisse.
Both highlighted the purpose of the summit aimed at youth representatives: to increase awareness of human rights and the use of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the tool to resolve human rights violations.
The summit premiered the international release of The Story of Human Rights, a striking new short film produced in collaboration with the Human Rights Department of the Church of Scientology International. The documentary defines in simple terms the subject of human rights. Shuttleworth said the film is “a gift to the millions on all continents, out to the far corners of the world, as was the vision of Eleanor Roosevelt.” Roosevelt was one of the authors and chief proponents of the thirty Article Declaration, spearheading its adoption by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.
The roster of speakers included ambassadors, academics and religious leaders, pointing to the vital necessity of improving human rights worldwide in the face of statistics such as some 800,000 people trafficked across international borders each year with annual profits as high as $7 billion, and young children sold into forced labor, prostitution, pornography, organ removal, or even as child soldiers.
In a moving address, Ms. Allida Black, project director and editor of the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers and Research Professor of History and International Affairs at George Washington University, said that failure to implement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights would be like “spitting on the grave of Martin Luther King, spitting on the grave of Mahatma Gandhi, or betraying Nelson Mandela.”
Ms. Anne Archer, Academy-award-nominated actress and founder of the international Artists for Human Rights, presented the Youth for Human Rights Activist Awards for 2009. Awardees included Georgi Naydenov, director of Help the Needy Foundation, Bulgaria; Petar Grigorov Gramatikov, from Dialogue Center, Bulgaria; Niki Lanik, a champion race car driver from the United Kingdom; and Tony Mathipa, a young human rights activist from South Africa.
The summit also included a Human Rights Education interactive workshop and an interreligious service uniting and encouraging people of many faiths to pursue peace.
Rukshan Fernando, 17, delegate from Sri Lanka stated: “Youth for Human Rights International is a beacon for hope in a sea of darkness and will be the voice of the future when other voices are lost in the past.”
Ms. Ndioro Ndiaye, Deputy Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) cited Youth for Human Rights’ call for empowerment and responsibility of all people as exemplary of “Ghandi’s maxim ‘you must be the change you want to see in the world.’”
The first Human Rights Summit was held in August 2004 at United Nations Headquarters and UNICEF House in New York City and has alternated with Los Angeles every year since then until this year. In 2005 the summit was held in Los Angeles; in 2006 in New York again, at United Nations Headquarters; in 2007 at the University of California, Los Angeles, and in 2008, at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
Youth for Human Rights International is a nonprofit, secular organization founded in 2001 by educator Mary Shuttleworth to teach human rights to young people. YHRI brings awareness and knowledge of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights to youth through essay and art contests and by providing materials for students and teaching guides for schools.