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Human Rights: A Challenge for the Present Society
Surgit Singh Puri 한국어강좌 수강생  |  tribune1968@cnumedia.com
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승인 2014.09.30  16:27:35
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2014 World Human Rights Cities Forum

What Are Human Rights?
    If this question is put to a person, he would give his version of just two or three rights he is aware of. But then the human rights are not restricted to a few rights or freedom that a person is expected to enjoy. To understand human rights or to define them, we ought to break this word ‘human rights’. ‘Human’ means a member of the species Homo sapiens – a man, a woman, a child or a person. And ‘right’ is also a noun, which denotes – the rights you have simply just because you are a human being. These rights have been given to all by the nature/God and are guaranteed.
    Human rights are based on the principle of respect for the individual. The fundamental assumption is that each person is a moral and rational being, who deserves to be treated with dignity, irrespective of caste, color and sex. They are called ‘human rights’ because they are universal, whereas natives or specialized groups enjoy specific rights that apply to them. Human rights are the rights to which everyone is entitled, with no discrimination, whatsoever simply because they are human beings. So the broad-based human rights mean a choice and an opportunity.

The Origin of Human Rights
    The rights have been existing since time immemorial and where known as ‘nature laws’ or laws given by the God. But the earliest known written human right is the Cyrus cylinder (by Cyrus the Great), which is regarded as the first charter of human rights. Then over a period of time, the documents assessing the individual rights started coming up like: Magna Carta (1215), The Petition of Right (1628), The US Constitution (1787), French Declaration of Man and the Citizen (1780), US Bill of Rights (1791), Geneva Convention (1864).
    The horrors of the Second World War gave rise to the league of nations, and later the United Nations organization (24 Oct., 1945) and the historic universal declaration of human rights (1948), which is regarded as the International. Magna Carta and is recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records as to the most translated document (after the bible) in the world. The UN has been facilitating new declarations and treaties on the subject to uphold the dignity of human beings, without any discrimination.
    An analysis of above-mentioned documents would reveal that human rights are moral principles that set out certain standards of human behavior and are regularly protected as legal rights in national and international law. They are inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled. They are universal (applicable everywhere and are egalitarian (same for everyone). It is but natural to have a common moral language. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.


2014 World Human Rights Cities Forum
    The Gwangju International Center (GIS) on its own initiative is organizing the forum from May 15 to 18 at the prestigious Kim Dae Jung Convention Center. The event would provide thematic workshops for the purpose and this year; its theme is “Towards a Global Alliance of Human Rights Cities for All.” Besides the experts who would deliver key notes addressed on the topics relating to the human rights, more than 500 guests are expected from all over the world.
    In its own innovative way, the GIC has welcomed volunteers to participate in the said forum to provide them with listening and learning opportunities. For this with an aim to facilitate Gwangju youth to advocate human rights, the city is famous all over the world.
    The broad spectrum of human rights issues has been divided into five workshops for proper interaction with the participants to promote a common vision on this global issue. The workshops are: (a) City and Child Youth, (b) Elders and Human Rights, (c) Environment and Human Rights, (d) City and Gender, and (e) City and Disabled
    Being a senior citizen from India, I volunteered for the workshop on the elders and human rights and my request was gracefully accepted by the coordinator of the GIC. This tempted me to do a little study on the topic, so as to interact properly in the workshop, with particular reference to India.


The Right of the Aged
With the increased low birth, as well the low death rate, presently, one out of every 10 people is above 60 years of age. By 2050 every fifth person in the world will be above 60 years. It is believed, in Korea, the population of elders is 40 percent of total population. This rising figure of the elders forced the international community to highlight the situation of the other persons. It was realized that the elders, due to fast dated changing scenario, face multiple challenges in their fundamental rights.

Challenges to Elders
    Broadly, the elders face the following challenges:
 (a) Poverty and inadequate living conditions – Homelessness, malnutrition, unattended chronic diseases, lack of sanitation, unaffordable medicines and treatment, and income insecurity.
(b) Gaps of services between urban and rural areas
(c) Rapidly changing social and economic pattern and nuclearisation of families to support for older persons
(d) Age related discrimination – ‘Ageism’ for employment
(e) Violence and abuse of older persons by the family members/ trustees (physical, emotional, sexual)
(f) Lack of specific measure and services for older persons – to increasing demand, particularly for specialized services, such as residential centers, home care programs or geriatric services.
    The olds are treated as worthless in today’s fast paced globalised and increasingly industrialized world.


International Norms and Standards Related to the Rights of Elders
    Vienna International Plan of Action on Ageing, 1982, is the first step on the issue, for a political consensus, emphasizing development and international co-operation and assistance in this area. The political declaration and Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing 2002 adopted at the second world assembly on ageing, 2002, has guided the drafting of policies and programs at national level.
    The Madrid Plan re-affirmed commitment to promotion and protection of human rights and called for elimination of age discrimination, neglect, abuse and violence towards the aged. Through there are binding international instruments to special categories of persons like – a woman, a child, a disabled. There is no special instrument for older persons, and only an explicit preference is made in the instruments to other weaker categories (except the International Labor Organization).
    The council of Europe, however, has made some efforts to include olds in:
(a) European social charter – indirectly refers to old in social security, and medical care
(b) Recommendations on screening and surveillance of elders (in data collection)
(c) Medical and welfare rights of elders
(d) 1999 declared as the international year of the older persons by the UN
    Similarly, the EU has made some attempts on the subject e.g., charter of fundamental rights of EU (Elder’s right) to live independently and in a respectful manner and their active participation in social and cultural life of the member states.


National Response to Specific Human Rights Issues
    It is the nations with aid of NGOs to come to the assistance. At international scene NGOs like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and International Service for Human Rights monitor and highlight human rights issues. Many governments have support system in place for elderly people such as social security and free or discounted medical care, however, due to increased number of agendas, has lessen the ability of the societies and the governments, to care for their aged population.
    There are other difficulties too, as the older persons are not a homogeneous group and should not be treated as such. Experience of old age is different for men and women and it also differs between a person who is 60 years and 80 year old person. Proper data collection and their analysis are too important for initiating different schemes. This is a complex and multi-layered phenomena. And it is the local government who can monitor and sponsor schemes, but funds are constraints and also non availability of trained power, to deal with the issue. Most of the governments’ do not have separate offices for the aged ad they are combined with the disabled.

    Due to fast paced life and change of moral standards, there is increased number of aged in the world and the problem needs address of this universal problem at an international level. At the international level, there is still no dedicated international protection regime for human rights of older persons.
    Existing human rights mechanism has lacked a systematic and comprehensive approach to the specific circumstances of older men and women. The mandate of the open-ended working group or agency for the purpose of strengthening the protection of the human rights of older persons, established in 2010 by the General Assembly Resolution 65/102, is a crucial step towards exploring existing gaps in the protection of human rights.
    As Mr. Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the UN had remarked that “we all know what the problems are, and we all know what we have promised to achieve. What is needed now is not make declarations or promises, but action to fulfill the promised already made.”
    Keeping the above golden advice of Mr. Annan, we must seriously avail this opportunity offered to discuss the problem thread bare and put combined minds to offer practical solutions, to the problem, which we all of us have to face, sooner or later. On the optimistic side, with so many expertise and experienced people like Madam Maimunah Mohd. Sharif, President of the Municipal Council of Seberang Perai (Malaysia), graciously presiding the event, god willing rightful solutions would be worked out to this universal issue.
    Human Rights Act is not just about terrorists and criminals. It is about ordinary people’s rights, in the way, they are dealt with by public bodies. Let’s all make this big effort of the GIC a big success. Let’s make this global village assembled at Gwangju, a platform for knowing and understanding the work done by each of us (Networking can certainly help). Coordinated effort is the need of the hour.

By Surgit Singh Puri, Indian Student, Regular Korean Language Course,
Language Education Center, Chonnam National University

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