Colombo, Aug 3 (newsin.asia) – Shanali Abeysinghe represented Sri Lanka as a Youth Delegate at the 17th International Human Rights Summit held at United Nations headquarters in New York. Shanali is actively promoting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Sri Lanka and advocating for equality and peace through the educational program of Youth for Human Rights International.
The theme of this year’s Summit, in the year that marks the 75th anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), was IMAGINE: EQUALITY. DIGNITY. UNITY—Youth Making it a Reality. And Shanali’s work is a living example of the power of youth in changing the world for the better.
“With the support of Road to Rights Organization-Sri Lanka, I plan to educate youth about the importance of freedom of expression and create a stage that highlights the importance of the rights by focusing on schools, universities, and workplaces.” Shanali says. “We would also like to collaborate with many organizations in Sri Lanka to organize events, create educational materials, and advocate for changes to the law that would protect and promote human rights.”
The Summit was hosted by the Permanent Mission of Timor-Leste to the UN and co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Ireland, Albania, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was held at the UN Economic and Social Council Chamber, providing youth and senior delegates from more than 45 nations the opportunity to meet and be mentored by international human rights icons.
Prominent speakers at the Summit included the Permanent Representative of Timor-Leste to the UN, Ambassador Karlito Nunes; Permanent Representative of Albania to the UN, Ambassador Ferit Hoxha; Immediate Past President of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Dr. Ira Helfand, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate for 1985 and 2017; Co-Founder and President of Eyes Open International, Harold D’Souza; Chief Operating Officer Movement Forward, Inc. Jared Feuer; retired Associate Justice of the Philippine Court of Appeals of the Philippines and Chairperson of the Independent Commission Against Private Armies, Monina Arevalo Zenarosa; and Professor Haetham Abdul-Razaq, Ph.D., Northwest Vista College.
In a video presentation recorded for the Summit, Timor-Leste President José Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate for 1996, welcomed the youth and senior delegates: “The hope that is represented by the UDHR never dies. It is always carried forward by the young. With your actions today, you are making the world you will live in a better place. The UDHR maps the road to a better world. Thank you for continuing to carry that torch and build a road to the ideals we share.”
More than 400 officials, ambassadors, and representatives of UN permanent missions, representatives of NGOs, educators, human rights advocates, and members of civil society, attended the two-day conference, with viewers watching online across the globe through the UN website.
Cosponsors of the Summit included the Human Rights Department of the Church of Scientology International, Eyes Open International, Aido Network International, African Diaspora Foundation, and York, Canada, Regional Police.
One focus of the Summit was education and the role of universities and governments in ensuring the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is taught to people of all ages. Panelists discussed the importance of educational institutions advocating human rights education.
Universities showed their support by becoming Associate Education Institutes of the Summit. These included the Human Rights Consortium School of Advanced Study University of London; Faculty of Law of Khon Kaen University Thailand; Leuphana University Luneburg Germany; Centre for Human Rights Education, Curtin University Australia; Faculty of Law and Criminology, Vrije Universiteit Brussels; Humboldt International University, Florida. They encouraged universities and educational institutions across the world to forward the aims of the UDHR in its 75th anniversary year by ensuring that youth are taught human rights at all levels.
The final day, Saturday, July 8, was a multicultural celebration hosted by the Church of Scientology of Harlem Community Center. The day began with a workshop for delegates on human rights education, where each created an action plan to apply what they learned at the Summit to accelerate positive change in their communities.
The Church then hosted performances and speakers from many nations and backgrounds. Singer-songwriter Jose Plaza opened the program followed by a performance from his father, multi-platinum recording artist Alberto Plaza. Youth delegates spoke of their work and the impact this Summit has had on their lives.
In closing this three-day program, Dr. Mary Shuttleworth, president of Youth for Human Rights International (YHRI), conveyed her deepest respect for the young men and women who represented their countries to the Summit: “Your hard work is making all our dreams come true.”
Then, Youth Delegates and Senior Delegates took to the streets of New York, passing out copies of Youth for Human Rights booklets and reading people their 30 rights. They then gathered in Times Square, where they collected signatures on a giant 12-foot petition to mandate human rights education in schools.
Do you know your human rights? Learn them and find out more at https://www.youthforhumanrights.org.