United Nations Commemorates Human Rights Day with focus on Climate Resilience

Dec 11, 2017

The United Nations Subregional Team for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean (UNST) commemorated the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with a human rights public education activity on Saturday, 9 December 2017, in Heroes Square, Bridgetown, Barbados.

Each year Human Rights Day is celebrated on 10 December, the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, as the final event of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. This year the UNST marked the day with a human rights public education activity that commemorates the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its relevance to citizens in Barbados and other small island developing states that are vulnerable to climate change and natural hazards. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a milestone document that proclaimed the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being -- regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Under the theme, “When Disaster Strikes, what are your Rights?”, this public education initiative involved the installation of an interactive human rights board, an information booth, and an MC who conducted live interviews with key persons and the public. The event focused on raising awareness of the link between natural disasters, human rights and sustainable development in Barbados and other small island developing states. It placed a spotlight on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and its connection to the region’s key development threats (notably the effect of climate change and disasters on the lives of citizens in small island developing states) and development goals, such as the Sustainable Development Goals.

Hurricane Irma, the most powerful hurricane ever recorded over the Atlantic, exposed up to 169,000 people to Category 5 Hurricane Force winds, left 17,000 people in need of immediate shelter and caused the breakdown of essential services, affecting up to 265,000 people. Hurricane Maria, which followed quickly, devastated Dominica, leaving no one in its population of 71,000 people unaffected. At the recent high-level donor conference co-hosted by CARICOM and the UN, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres underscored the importance of climate action to secure the well-being of Caribbean citizens. “Countries in the Caribbean need support now to rebuild, and to take effective climate action. We need a new generation of infrastructure that is risk-informed, to underpin resilient economies, communities and livelihoods.”

By highlighting the recent impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the UNST and partners encouraged the public to reflect on what climate change means for their own lives and examine how human rights and sustainable development links to building a more climate-resilient community.

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