Leadership, Ethics, Peace and Practical Human Rights
Partly for my own benefit, and for anyone else who’s interested, I’ll be summarizing what I took away from the amazing speeches and workshops that I’m receiving here at the Forum. I can’t guarantee to do these amazing people justice, however it’ll give you a rough idea…
Foundations of Human Rights Leadership and Ethics
Dr Amii Omara-Otunnu, UNESCO Chair of Comparative Human Rights
Despite the ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) most people in the world struggle to meet their most basic rights as humans. There is a huge gap between the rhetoric used in relation to human rights, and the situation of people suffering poverty across the world. We have enough food, yet there remains famine such as the one ravaging the horn of Africa putting the lives of 12,000,000 at risk. Although we share a common humanity we live in enclaves, remaining in silos determined by ethnicity, nationality, gender or ideology (amongst other things). How do we transcend this and embrace a common humanity?
In the field of human rights we currently lack:
- Global ethical values: taking in truthfulness, probity, honesty, and a system of evaluation.
- Informed empathy: which comprises
- Reciprocal respect
- Art of listening
- Imaginative mind
- Reciprocal respect
- Tolerance (and understanding)
- Tender and generous heart, and gentle spirit
- An open mind
- Compassion (in action)
- Courage and integrity
- Introspection (deeper than simple reflection)
Arguably developing a sound conscience and strong ethical compass is essential to working in the humanitarian field: “the greatest of all equalizers is the recognition of a common humanity”. Humanitarian work should not be undertaken with a sense of pity.
Understanding history is also an essential component, and ignorance cannot be an excuse for remaining shrouded in your silo. Problems are rarely new, and learning from the past is an essential component. There is too much to do to waste time going over old problems. Greater leaders have come before.
“Human Rights begin with each of us individually, so our challenge is to transform ourselves, to transcend ourselves, to recognize a common humanity and be guided by an ethical compass. Human Rights cannot be left to governments alone.”
The Milennium Development Goals
Culture of Peace
Prof. David Adams, former Director UNESCO Unit for the International Year of a Culture of Peace
We live in a world where war is common, both historically and in contemporary society. A significant proportion of the group lived in a country at war (including me). Here we were asked to consider what the characteristics society must have to promote a culture of war (such as the one we have at the moment), and then develop ideas as to what would be required to develop a culture of peace. It is important to note that a culture of war, in an anthropological sense, is dependent on the characteristics of a society and not individuals. The characteristics we settled upon were:
- Education (peace and non-violence, instead of focusing in wars and conflict)
- Tolerance and solidarity
- Sustainability and equity
- Free flow of information
- Gender equality (there are few women warriors)
- Democratic participation
- Universal respect for human rights
With the heads of states participating less and less in the work of the United Nations, there is a strong argument for the UN to focus again on the needs of the people. This may refresh the role of the UN, making it more responsive and relevant. One consideration is that a culture of peace, although an ideal, would make a good framework on which to base this.
“The culture of peace undermines the power of state, which is dependent on a culture of war.”