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Monday, April 15, 2024

PH contributions to human rights

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“During the early days of the UN, the Philippines staunchly advocated for the right to self-determination of peoples still under the yoke of colonialism”

This year’s celebration of Human Rights Day on Dec 10 is special because it marked the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

The Philippines played an essential role in drafting the Universal Declaration – one of the most profound and influential expressions of human values and rights ever produced and the world’s most translated document.

General Carlos P. Romulo was a member of the first United Nations Commission on Human Rights that prepared the UDHR for adoption by UN Member States in 1948.

Article 1 of the Declaration, based on Romulo’s formulation, boldly states “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

Philippine contributions permeate not only the UDHR, but the entire international human rights framework.

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This is something which all Filipinos should be proud of and never forget. We helped shape global human rights norms and standards.

During the early days of the UN, the Philippines staunchly advocated the right to self-determination of peoples still under the yoke of colonialism. Later, we firmly opposed apartheid and oppression.

Following the adoption of the UDHR, we supported the codification of human rights into binding international instruments, such as the International Covenants on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Civil and Political Rights.

We injected our national values and advocacies into the global consciousness to enhance protection of our peoples and interests.

In women’s rights, former Senator Leticia Shahani-Ramos and Ambassador Rosario G. Manalo were the driving forces behind the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Manalo served as Chair of the CEDAW Committee and remains an active member.

Being a nation that highly values and promotes the welfare of its migrants, we took the lead in developing the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. Ambassador Jose Brillantes served as Chair of the Migrant Workers Committee.

Our national human rights institutions and laws are regarded as models in the region and beyond.

Founded under our Constitution, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines is an independent human rights monitor, fully compliant with international standards.

Our Indigenous Peoples Rights Acts was used as the template for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In ASEAN, we have been the leading voice in the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR).

We also continue to be ahead of the curve with respect to emerging human rights issues.

Over a decade ago, the Philippines was among the first to raise alarm bells about the detrimental impacts of climate change on human rights in the Human Rights Council. This link has now become widely acknowledged.

At the UN General Assembly, President Marcos and Foreign Secretary Enrique A. Manalo called for rules for the responsible use of emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and autonomous weapons, so that they do not compromise human dignity and fundamental human rights.

We also engage in discussions on how to advance the rights of older persons, as numerous societies are aging throughout the world.

We work on these issues with civil society and international partners in an open and constructive manner, based on the rule of law, due process, peaceful dialogue, and national sovereignty and agency. And while we continue to face human rights challenges, like all countries, we continue with our active engagement and resolve to further bolster respect for human rights at home and abroad.

The UN Joint Program on Human Rights, in its last year, has been an innovative means to support national government policies and programs with the cooperation of the UN and its relevant specialized agencies and bilateral partners.

This week, the Department of Foreign Affairs is partnering with the University of the Philippines and Philippine Women’s University in holding symposia with the academe on human rights with special guests, Prof. Bertrand Ramcharan, former Acting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Mr. Orest Nowosad, a retired official from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Through all these examples and initiatives, both past and present, we see that human rights are deeply ingrained in the Philippine diplomatic tradition – which reflects our diverse, vibrant and free civil society and media.

On Human Rights Day, we celebrated how much the Philippines and Filipinos have contributed to human rights on the world stage. Let us be proud of this legacy, and keep it going.

(The author is a diplomat with over 20 years experience with the rank of Career Minister. He is Deputy Assistant Secretary for United Nations and Other International Organizations at the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines.)

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