Shine Your Light for Human Rights

A series of 14 events across seven time zones spotlighting the centrality of rights to the daily lives of people everywhere.


Shine your light for Human Rights Defenders

6 December 2018, Mexico City

UDHR Article 20 guarantees the right of everyone to demand their rights and Article 21 guarantees the right to take part in the government of their country.

This event will shine a light on the un-paralleled contribution that human rights defenders and civil society broadly make for rights everyday everywhere and will celebrate the courage of those who stand up for rights in this way.

6 December 2018 - Human rights defenders from all over the country met for an audience-oriented conference at the Memory and Tolerance Museum in Mexico City. The panelist discussed their experiences and observations on serious human rights violations taking place in Mexico, the defense of cultural and economic rights, indigenous peoples' rights, rule of law, legislation and impunity.

This conference is one of 14 events in the world highlighted by UN Human Rights for the 70th Anniversary of the Declaration. Georgette Gagnon, Director of Field Operations and Technical Cooperation for UN Human Rights, stressed that “a main function of human rights defenders is precisely to apply, translate and make real the principles of the Universal Declaration to the realities of their languages, their cultures, their contexts and of course their struggles.”

“Human rights defenders demand justice, expose corruption, raise awareness through education, investigate and report, advocate for enhanced accountability from states so the states comply with their legal obligations and promote dialogue with civil society” she added.

José Reveles, a journalist who has spent years documenting human rights violations, stated that 50 years after Tlatelolco’s massacre, Mexico was still susceptible to forced disappearances, and “criminalization of political expression and social activism”, of people facing persecution, only because of their free expression of their ideas.

Abel Barrera, who directs the Tlachinollan Centre in Guerrero Mountain, said that the origins of violence could be traced back to the Mexican “dirty war” of the 1960s. He called for accountability to stop the “impunity patterns” that have predominated the past decades.

Estela Angeles Mondragón, a lawyer, recalled her experience as an advisor for Tarahumara communities in the defense of their territories against mega projects. In spite of constant harassment and death threats, these communities managed to win 17 trials with the support of international agreements on land rights.

In 2017, UN Human Rights has documented many cases related to the right to water, environmental rights and business and human rights and shared its findings with all of the relevant stakeholders involved, including representatives of the Government, civil society organizations and private companies. In addition, regarding the rights of indigenous communities, UN Human Rights has accompanied the communities in the consultation processes, provided training to public authorities and organized seminars on the subject, with the aim of developing good practices before the adoption of a new legislation on the right of indigenous peoples to prior consultation.

Ximena Antillón, who provides psychosocial help to victims at the Fundar Organization, presented the case of how the vulnerability of the most marginalized populations grows the risk of forced disappearances. Her warning was clear. If society does not become more inclusive and transform into solidarity, this vulnerability may result in militarization, and more violence. Antillón stressed that it is vital to “turn anger into an engine for justice, so it won’t destroy us”.

“If we don’t unite, victims and civil society, it will be hard to compel the state to do its job”, emphasized human rights defender Grace Fernández, from Torreón.

“I want to leave the world a better place than I found it”, declared Alberto Xicoténcatl Carrasco, a defender from Coahuila.

The Director of the UNIC in Mexico, Giancarlo Summa, pointed out that the conference room was at its full capacity, representing “the demonstration of the great interest that the people in Mexico have for the defense of human rights”. Nevertheless, he also observed, “human rights are under attack in the world. The rule of law is being debilitated”. That is why “agreements have a very important role: they help to change societies”, said Summa.

“Today, we not only celebrate 70 years of the Declaration, but also the architecture of binding agreements that are based on the Declaration”, added Jan Jarab, the Representative in Mexico for the OHCHR. He also recalled the spirit of the Declaration quoting the French author René Cassin: “the powerful can’t be allowed to have everything they want. They have obligations”.

“It is the human rights defenders who remind the powerful that they have obligations”, concluded Jarab.

Watch the video of the event

  • I will respect your rights regardless of who you are. I will uphold your rights even when I disagree with you
  • When anyone’s human rights are denied, everyone's rights are undermined, so I will stand up
  • I will raise my voice. I will take action. I will use my rights to stand up for your rights.

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