Youth for Human Rights International - Year 2010 in Review

1 January 2011

Mary Shuttleworth, President of Youth for Human Rights International Mary Shuttleworth, President of Youth for Human Rights International

In 2010, human rights were promoted by bicycle in Taiwan, while running marathons in Russia, on murals in the USA, at concerts in Canada, in orphanages in Kenya, by candlelight in Germany, reached new heights with footballs in Denmark and Morocco and much more! Floods of art, essays and success stories depicted the new levels of understanding youth have of their human rights. Best of all were the photos and accounts from our youth volunteers who reached out into their local communities and taught human rights to their peers in schools, community centers and youth groups.

Through the tireless efforts of our supporters and dedicated volunteers, this has been a year of outstanding accomplishments and exponential expansion for Human Rights Education, not only in the formal but also the informal education sectors. We could fill volumes giving full credit to the many excellent initiatives that raised the bar on Human Rights Education on all continents. This all-too-brief summary is but a glimpse into some of our accomplishments this past year:

As translations are vital to global expansion, Farsi and Arabic translations of our Human Rights Education materials are well in progress. Dedicated volunteers continue to work on other translations as well. In addition, our YHRI websites are now available in the following languages: Chinese, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin American) and Swedish.

This year, the UN International Year of Youth theme aims to encourage dialogue and understanding across generations and promote the ideals of peace, respect for human rights and freedom. The UN News Service reported, "In its resolution proclaiming the Year, the General Assembly called on governments, civil society, individuals and communities worldwide to support activities at local and international levels to mark the event."

In keeping with this theme, the 7th Annual YHRI World Tour 2010, reached out to youth around the world. They visited Brazil, Ecuador, Greece, Guatemala, Hawaii, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Panama, Portugal, Sardinia, Sicily, South Africa, Swaziland, Taiwan and the United States. Meetings promoting Human Rights Education were held in universities, schools, orphanages and community centers as well as the high offices of officials and dignitaries. Newspaper, radio and TV coverage of the events reached millions more.

The annual YHRI International Human Rights Summit opened with a procession of more than 60 youth delegates carrying flags of their respective nations at the UN Palais des Nations in Geneva. Over 50 UN diplomats and hundreds of supporting organizations welcomed the youth. The Summit included presentations from youth delegates on their respective human rights activities; special addresses by dignitaries and human rights NGOs; a panel discussion on the Human Rights Education draft resolution currently under discussion by the Human Rights Council of the UN; and a presentation of Human Rights Advocate Awards for stellar contributions to Human Rights Education. The awards were presented to:

  • Mr. Ezozo Agrippa, Founder and President of The African Diaspora Foundation
  • Dr. Noel Brown & Mr. Irving Sarnoff, founders of Friends of the United Nations
  • Drs. Mustafa and Marjan Dorbayani, co-founders of World Academy of Arts, Literature & Media (WAALM)
  • Zhe-Ruei "Jerry" Chang and the YHRI-Taiwan Team
  • Osagie Okoruwa Nations and the YHRI-Nigeria Team

The Governor of California honored our 7th Annual Youth for Human Rights Day on the 1st of October. Youth, educators and community leaders joined the delegation at the State Capitol in Sacramento. Mayors of Alhambra, Arcadia, Burbank, Glendale, La Canada, Los Angeles, Mountain View, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose and Santa Clarita joined the Governor in proclaiming Youth for Human Rights Day and stressed the importance of Human Rights Education.

In 1948, members of the UN signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and called upon all member countries to: "cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories." Few countries have done so on their own, so YHRI takes action to raise awareness of the need for this. At the Human Dimension Conference in Warsaw, Poland this year, YHRI urged the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to expedite the implementation of Human Rights Education by mandating it in all educational institutions throughout Europe. YHRI volunteers conducted petition drives, gathering support from tens of thousands in city squares, shopping centers, parks and train stations, to urge their governments to implement Human Rights Education in schools.

On December 10th, in honor of International Human Rights Day, our International Walk for Human Rights was coordinated and executed by youth delegates and others in every corner of the globe. Thousands of youth from the following countries participated in this global initiative to raise awareness and promote human rights: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Cameroon, Canada, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany, Holland, India, Italy, Japan, Mali, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia, Scotland, Slovakia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, the United States and Zambia. The song, Ten Thousand Voices by Dustin McGahee, was translated and sung in countries across the world, inspiring young and old to join in the Walk for Human Rights.

2010 also saw the expansion of our chapters around the world.

YHRI's African Human Rights Leadership Project continued its actions for expansion in West Africa, including education workshops in Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone. They promoted Human Rights Education in schools and in youth groups to thousands of students.

YHRI in the Asia-Pacific has new groups in Indonesia, Tasmania, Cambodia and New Zealand. In Tasmania, on Human Rights Day 2010, YHRI-Asia Pacific combined with international as well as Tasmanian human rights groups to create a walk to the Hobart Town Hall where the mayor was presented with the YHRI PSAs.

In New Zealand, our new group in Taranaki has just become an official charity in its own right, recognized by the New Zealand Charities Commission.

Multiple awards acknowledged the work of the YHRI-Ecuador team. They celebrated the 30 Human Rights for 30 days, traveling to 7 provinces, 8 cities, 60 colleges and 20 universities, reaching a total of 17,000 students with our message. The events and workshops were quite successful. For example, in the city of Ambato, 5,200 students inspired community and local officials to come together in honor of International Human Rights Day.

Hundreds of youth from colleges and universities also gathered at the Carolina Park in Quito to participate in the peaceful walk for human rights, while a giant screen showed the PSAs. National Ecuador TV broadcast the event to millions.

YHRI-Greece promoted the PSAs on 42 TV channels nationwide. In addition, after hosting the YHRI World Tour 2010, the team was invited as guest speakers to a national children's congress which included more than 200 medical professionals.

During two youth festivals with more than 20,000 people in attendance, YHRI-Greece showed the Human Rights PSAs and distributed materials. Human Rights Education seminars were also delivered in elementary schools, high schools and workshops to approximately 1,500 students and teachers.

In downtown Athens, the PSAs aired on large screens to thousands of passers-by. All in all, Human Rights Education was promoted to millions of people in Greece.

In Holland, our YHRI team participated in several events. These included the anti-slavery Keti Koti Festival and the yearly Dutch Liberation Festival in May, which welcomed the Freedom Train that went through all of Holland’s major cities to commemorate the end of World War II.

Using our PSAs, workshops were held on the subject of human rights at secondary schools. Volunteers of YHRI-Holland also organized several petition signing events to gain support for the implementation of Human Rights Education in all schools. Reaching beyond their own borders, YHRI-Holland formed new collaborations with groups to support human rights, including the rights of homeless children in Sierra Leone.

YHRI-India has grown 100-fold in 2010. Volunteers are coordinated via an on-line network to activate members across the country. We now have over 3,000 members in India who have delivered hundreds of events during this year alone. Many of the YHRI activities are undertaken in partnership with other like-minded organizations. As part of the December 10th International Human Rights Walk campaign, more than 30 walks supported by tens of thousands of people were completed throughout India.

In Italy, many YHRI volunteers participated in the forefront of the nation’s most important walk for peace. Their message was loud and clear: Peace can only exist when human rights exist. Approximately 200,000 people also participated. The YHRI volunteers distributed 8,000 flyers and What Are Human Rights? booklets. From this, the chapter received over 200 requests from local teachers for the YHRI Educator's Guide.

Our UNITED music video inspired the Italian United for Africa project of the Church of Scientology (Chiesa di Scientology) and the Association for Human Rights and Tolerance (Associazione per i Diritti Umani e la Tolleranza). So far they have built two schools in Ghana. Moreover, using the YHRI materials, YHRI volunteers delivered seminars and conferences to several hundred local students.

YHRI-Italy also organized a charity dinner in Milan with a very special guest: the sister of the Dalai Lama, who directs a school that helps Tibetan children in need.

In Japan, the national Shizuoka newspaper covered the story of the YHRI-Japan delegate participating in the YHRI International Human Rights Summit in Geneva.

Additionally, a series of international human rights events were held, including a Japanese cultural event, music charity event and more. Artists, producers, educators, and officials as well as community organizations joined in to support Human Rights Education. More than 100 high schools requested our educational materials for use in their schools and fifteen cable TV stations aired our PSAs to millions.

YHRI-Kenya distributed the newly released Kenyan edition of the YHRI What Are Human Rights? booklet, as well as the UNITED song in Kiswahili. The team reached out to orphanages in Western Kenya and the underdeveloped Kibera areas in Nairobi. Kenyan dignitaries and police officials, as well as civic and student organizations, supported our activities. YHRI-Kenya is now collaborating with the YHRI chapter in Denver, Colorado—a sister city of Nairobi.

In Mexico, the Government of Chiapas made history as it reformed its constitution to include articles from the UDHR and to make Human Rights Education mandatory. Last October, the State of Chiapas approved the constitutional reform and become the first state in the country to take this step.

Tens of thousands of copies of the YHRI What Are Human Rights? booklet were distributed to youth by the YHRI-Mexico team. Human rights seminars and events screened the YHRI PSAs, while more than 10,000 copies of the PSAs on DVD were distributed to participants.

YHRI-Morocco took Human Rights Education to new heights through football competitions for youth under the age of 18. Proud participants received cups, medals, diplomas and a new understanding of their 30 Human Rights and responsibilities. Additionally, YHRI-Morocco started a free community school with a curriculum that includes lessons on basic Human Rights in addition to classes that teach how to write in Arabic, in any form.

From the north of Pakistan to the south, local YHRI volunteers raised awareness of human rights in each of the provinces of Pakistan. They translated the abridged version of the 30 Human Rights into Urdu and Sindhi, and distribution of YHRI booklets and PSAs has occurred from Kashmir to Karachi.

Conferences and seminars have been organized by NGOs and youth to spread awareness of human rights in classrooms and community groups. YHRI volunteers also conducted training for youth in Hyderabad and Karachi regarding "Public Speaking on Human Rights." Furthermore, the International YHRI Petitions on "Don't Discriminate" yielded the highest signatures from Pakistan, and the International Walk for Human Rights in Pakistan included over 15 walks across the country. In the Philippines, students, teachers, artists and community leaders encouraged youth to depict human rights in their artwork. The colorful pieces focused on specific human rights such as the right to education, speech, nationality, and more. All together, they submitted more artwork to our annual YHRI Art Competition than any other country.

The YHRI-Romania team worked on translations of the YHRI materials in preparation for broad dissemination. Their expansion since 2003 includes presentations in schools, as well as youth groups reaching out to the communities. With generous support from local organizations, the group is expanding with more and more volunteers coming on board to help spread Human Rights Education in Romania.

In Russia, the YHRI team kept close count of their activities and with good reason. In 12 cities, our PSAs were screened in theaters, malls, shops, airports, aero-express speed trains, universities and schools. In total, they were screened on 1,682 plasma screens and seen by more than 1 million people.

YHRI volunteers also took to the streets of St. Petersburg and other cities to collect signatures for our petition requesting Human Rights Education in all schools. They also organized a Night for Human Rights, in a famous music club in Almaty.

Additionally, the Marathon for Human Rights 2010 was held in St. Petersburg, Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk and Zaporozhie, where an estimated 10,000 people learned about human rights. Volunteers also distributed 200,000 copies of the YHRI materials.

In South Africa, the City of Johannesburg printed a customized What Are Human Rights? booklet and distributed it broadly in schools. Our PSAs were aired on TV stations including Good Morning Africa, reaching 250 million across Africa, Asia and Europe. Millions more learned about human rights across the radio airwaves from Midrand FM and Radio Today. YHRI-South Africa events and workshops reached thousands more in schools, community centers and youth groups throughout the year.

The “Y4HR” Race Team, Racing 4 Human Rights, started by Niki Lanik and Andrew Chalmers, took our campaign to a whole new "speed" this year. Niki Lanik traveled from Colombia to Barbados, across the USA, and then from England to Austria. He even journeyed to Taiwan and spread the message of Human Rights Education to youth there. He spoke on radio stations, at events and concerts, giving out autographed cards, Know Your Human Rights booklets, and much more.

Niki also promoted Human Rights on the fast track—from the Volkswagen Beetle Fun Cup in England, to FIA GT3 in Portugal (where Niki finished 2nd in the Porsche class), and all the way to Belgium for the famous 1000 Km of the circuit of Spa-Francorchamps. 

Throughout 2010, we also continued our campaign to raise awareness of the global inhumane trafficking of persons as modern-day slaves. We held conferences in Italy, Japan, South Africa, Mexico, Spain, Taiwan and the United States, and spoke with media including the radio program Trafficked on the US radio station Here Women Talk. 

While there is much more to be done, together we have taken another giant leap forward.

As a nonprofit organization we rely on memberships, generous donations and supporters, in addition to the work of our dedicated volunteers across the globe. We appreciate your help and encourage you to invite your family and friends to join in the global movement to teach human rights and take action. Youth for Human Rights International (YHRI) is the youth component of United for Human Rights, a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization headquartered in Los Angeles. YHRI is a global movement, with groups, clubs and chapters in more than a hundred countries around the world. United for Human Rights strives to educate the public about human rights and to promote tolerance and peace among the people of the world.

Therefore, educators anywhere can, for a limited time, order a complimentary package of our Human Rights Education materials. The Education Package includes an educator's manual, videos, and posters depicting the 30 Human Rights, as well as booklets for the students. This limited complimentary offer was made possible by a generous donation of materials. Due to escalating demand, we urge educators to take advantage of this offer as soon as possible.

In conclusion, I want to acknowledge the Youth for Human Rights International Board Members as well as our Advisory Board Members including Mayor Almog Burstein, Dr. Pouran Ameli, Professor Ian Hall, Reverend McKinney, Sheriff Lee Baca, Sheeraz Hasan and Irving Sarnoff. Special acknowledgement goes to the Human Rights Department of the Church of Scientology International for their outstanding support. Each and every one of our volunteers, donors, sponsors, collaborators and supporters are the vital base for bringing this important message to the world and spurring our exponential global expansion.

Once again, congratulations! In your footsteps seeds grow. On your wings, Human Rights Education rises to greater heights.

Wishing you a wonderful and productive 2011!

With kind regards,

Mary Shuttleworth, Ed. D.