UN 75: Stand together for the world we want
The United Nations (UN) was founded 75 years ago today on 24 October, 1945. Shortly after the Second World War, world leaders came together and committed to working together for peace. This led to the creation of the UN, a global platform that fosters collaboration on world issues, and actively seeks to promote peace, human rights, international law, global security, and sustainable development.
On this important anniversary, the UN calls on us to come together for the future we want and need. We at Justice and Peace join this global call, and look back at the important work of the UN promoting the rights of refugees and supporting human rights defenders.
Protecting the rights of refugees
In 1950, the members of the newly established UN founded the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to aid the millions of Europeans who had fled or lost their homes during the devastating war. Initially established for a period of three years, the UNHCR grew to become a large UN organisation with presence in more than 120 countries.
Over the last ten years, more than 100 million people were forced to seek refuge. International cooperation on refugee protection is therefore more relevant than ever. Currently, the UNHCR is working on increasing the number of refugees who can be resettled to third countries, on establishing complementary pathways and promoting welcoming and inclusive societies. Unfortunately, only a small number of states currently participate in the UN’s resettlement programmes, which is why less than 1% of the refugees under UNHCR mandate are resettled. Increasing the number of refugees who can reach third countries through safe and legal pathways therefore remains an important task for the UN and national governments in the years to come.
Local solidarity plays an important role in building the necessary support for the creation of these safe and additional pathways. This is why Justice and Peace works through its Samen Hier programme on building a network of Dutch cities and villages, where groups of citizens themselves take the lead in the resettlement and reception of refugees.
Supporting human rights defenders
The UN has actively contributed to safer environments for human rights defenders to work in. In 1998, the UN General Assembly adopted the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. This historic achievement has contributed to legitimising the important work of human rights defenders and their need for better protection.
Since 2008, the UN has appointed a Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Defenders. This role is an important mandate assigned to experts in the field of human rights who dedicate themselves to the protection of all persons who individually or with others protect human rights peacefully, thus human rights defenders. The former rapporteur Michel Forst spent the last six years listening to the voices of defenders and ensuring that they are heard. According to him the ‘right to defend rights’ must be safeguarded. Forst’s successor, the newly appointed rapporteur Mrs. Mary Lawlor is set to continue the work in support of defenders around the world.
Human rights defenders face extreme pressure and threats as a result of their activism. This is why Justice and Peace founded the Shelter City programme in 2012, providing safe spaces for human rights defenders to rest, re-energise, and build capacities. Mr. Forst was and continues to be a supporter of Justice and Peace’s Shelter City programme for human rights defenders at risk, and we look forward to working together with Mrs. Lawlor.
In light of this important anniversary, Justice and Peace reaffirms our commitment to the message and values of this uniting and global organisation and call on our JP community to join us in shaping the future we want. Global challenges require global collaborations to solve them, and it is more important than ever to raise our voices and take action together for justice, peace, human rights, and a sustainable world. Now is the time for change.