“Our humanity is in peril,” Rahaf, a youth delegate from Saudi Arabia, said at the 13th annual International Human Rights Summit held at the United Nations in New York City in August 2016. “We are being separated, labeled by our religion, race, gender and nationality. Our unity relies on our humanity,” he continued. “It is our duty to teach and carry out the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and practice it.”
Rahaf was one of 72 young men and women from 41 countries who were selected as delegates to the summit, established by Youth for Human Rights International (YHRI), the youth component of United for Human Rights, a global nonprofit organization.
Founded in Los Angeles in 2001, YHRI now has more than 100 chapters and distributes its award-winning educational materials to 195 countries in 21 languages. Youth members lead chapters and organize human rights initiatives in nations worldwide.
Of course, no country is immune to human rights violations. In fact, filmmaker Ronald Lang spoke to the delegates and more than 400 guests about his new film that exposes the horrors of human trafficking, which “happens all over the world, even in my own backyard here in New York, and we need to put an end to it,” Lang said.
Striving to do just that and also to eradicate other human rights violations, the delegates presented their work to their peers and to dozens of diplomats from Permanent Missions to the UN—representing nations from Australia, Costa Rica and Denmark to Lebanon, Liberia and Poland—and various human rights luminaries.
Countless people around the world may not even know that their rights are being violated.
Vineet Kapoor, police adviser and aide-de-camp to the governor of Madhya Pradesh, India, said the people most in danger are those “in compulsory and bonded labor, in hazardous industries, vulnerable to human trafficking, deprived of school or college education, … living in extreme poverty and deprivation and those who lack family and community support for their well-being.”
Miriam, the Armenian delegate, told the group that strong people must “speak up for those whose voices have been silenced, those who are afraid to speak for fear of persecution. We must learn to accept our differences instead of trying to make sure we all fit the same mold.”
With that purpose, and the Youth for Human Rights educational materials to accomplish it, the delegates returned to their home nations to continue their missions through 2017.