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UN Agency Launches Biggest Appeal to Stop Global Erosion of Human Rights

  • Lisa Schlein

FILE - Women who fled fighting in South Sudan arrive at Bidi Bidi refugee’s resettlement camp in northern Uganda, Dec. 7, 2016.

The U.N. human rights office is appealing for $253 million to pay for projects to stop growing xenophobia, racial and religious discrimination and other violations from spreading around the world.

Two-hundred-and-53 million dollars may sound like a lot of money and the appeal is the most ambitious ever launched by the U.N. human rights office; but, this money represents only 3 percent of the overall U.N. budget.

Human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said the sum requested is only a pittance, considering human rights is one of the three pillars of the United Nations, along with peace and security.

She told VOA the world is in a perilous state and the situation of human rights globally is dire. She says conflicts have always existed, but that what is new and worrisome is the erosion of human rights values, laws and principles that were put together after World War II.

“There were human rights laws and principles that we took for granted, that states voluntarily signed on to that are now being questioned, that are being reopened and, in some cases, are being overturned. This is really the worrying part of the state of the world’s human rights today,” said Shamdasani.

The agency’s appeal comes at a time of great financial uncertainty. The United States has been the largest donor to the United Nations, as well as the OHCHR. The Trump administration, however, has indicated that it may cut funding to the U.N.

Shamdasani agreed this is of potential concern, but notes the United States has played a leadership role since the days of the League of Nations and her office is counting on that role continuing.

“Of course recently there have been some alarming rhetoric and even some alarming steps that have been taken that appear to be causing an erosion of these values; however, at the same time, we have seen quite an inspirational groundswell of defense of human rights,” she said.

Shamdasani said the appeal will support hard-hitting investigations into rights violations committed in places such as Bangladesh, South Sudan and Syria.

She said money will be used to train government, judicial and political officials about human rights principles. This, she added, will help alleviate some of the suffering of thousands of people victimized by torture, arbitrary arrests, disappearances and other abuse.

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