Peace On Earth: A Human Rights Issue
Peace on Earth
Peace on Earth is a nice thing to say during the holidays, have on a bumper sticker, or even voice your support. But have you ever thought about what it actually takes to have Peace on Earth?
Peace on Earth is said to be “the concept of an ideal state of happiness, freedom, and peace within and among all people and nations on Planet Earth.”
The peace sign is usually considered a symbol for laying down arms – a break from war. Did you know that Gerald Holtom created the peace sign for the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in 1958?
The vertical line in the center represents the flag semaphore, or flag signal, for the letter D. The downward lines on either side represent the signal for the letter N. Together – they are the symbol for nuclear disarmament. Britannica says that “Holtom also described the symbol as representing despair, with the central lines forming a human with its hands questioning at its sides against the backdrop of a white Earth.”
Although many different cultures and religions have mixed opinions about reaching world peace, it is much more than just nuclear disarmament. It has a lot to do with human rights.
Secretary-General of the UN, António Guterres, said
“There is more to achieving peace than laying down weapons. True peace requires standing up for the human rights of all the world’s people.”
Human rights are at the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace.
categories of human rights
Human rights education at the University of Minnesota says that these rights fall into three interlinked categories.
Civil and political rights (also called first-generation rights’). These are “liberty-oriented” and include the rights to life, liberty, and security of the individual; freedom from torture and slavery; political participation; freedom of opinion, expression, thought, conscience, and religion; freedom of association and assembly.
Economic and social rights (also called second-generation rights’). These are “security-oriented” rights, for example, the rights to work; education; a reasonable standard of living; food; shelter, and health care.
Environmental, cultural, and developmental rights (also called third-generation rights’). These include the rights to live in an environment that is clean and protected from destruction and rights to cultural, political, and economic development.
human rights for all
When human rights are abused or violated, we see unrest and violence – there is no peace. We rely on each other for stability.
Mother Teresa said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
The components of sustainability are social, economic, and environmental (people, planet, and profit), which are strongly interconnected with the categories of human rights. We each have a responsibility to do what we can to ensure that all human rights are met, regardless of national or neighborhood borders, if we want a sustainable and peaceful world.
Human rights violations
There is a lot that can be unpacked around the topic of human rights. But I want to clarify one thing – threats to our environment due to human activities infringe upon all three levels of human rights for people across the globe. The resulting symptoms of those violated rights usually lead to further environmental damage and unrest.
For example, human-caused environmental issues such as deforestation and land degradation lead to resource scarcity. Climate change disasters, climate-related conflict, and unsustainable extraction lead to the destruction of our natural resources and biodiversity that drives livelihoods – resulting in scarcity, poverty, damage to economic infrastructure, and displacement of communities. Violence is often used to control resources and access to basic human rights. Research by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) shows that these environmental issues often lead to gender-based violence (GBV), such as sexual violence and trafficking, which infringes all three categories of fundamental human rights.
And as we know, environmental issues first impact the world’s most vulnerable communities, only making inequality worse.
The UN says that “natural disasters displace three times as many people as conflicts, forcing millions to leave their homes and seek safety elsewhere.” They are Refugees and asylum speakers that have had their human rights violated.
Global Citizen reports that the top 5 causes for refugees are:
- Religious/National/Social/Racial/Political Persecution
- War – which arises for several reasons, including conquering land and people.
- Gender/Sexual Orientation
- Hunger – due to drought and food scarcity
- Climate Change (which will only worsen in the years to come if we don’t do something now).
Lack of support in our infrastructure for these displaced groups typically leads to political and social unrest and a lack of access for refugees to employment, education, medical care, and other essential public health measures. This continues the cycle of human rights violations, continuing the stress on resources and keeping us at arm’s length from peace on earth.
The United States Institute of Peace notes that “The most unequal societies are often the most violent. Weak institutions, rampant corruption, and high levels of exclusion fuel insecurity and damage communities and economies.”
However, Societies that protect and promote human rights for all are more resilient. They are better equipped to handle unexpected crises and the effects of climate change.
Pro-environmental and pro-social behavior, human rights, peace, justice – they are all issues that are threads in the fabric of peace.
Human rights + world peace
So how do we go about standing up for the human rights of all the world’s people and achieving peace on earth?
The United Nations suggests that we need a human-rights-based approach to move forward. They say that focusing on equality, inclusion, and non-discrimination in our development can reduce inequalities and help us reach our climate goals. And that this “human rights-based economy should be the foundation of a new social contract.”
“Equality, inclusion and non-discrimination, in other words – a human rights-based approach to development – is the best way to reduce inequalities and resume our path towards realizing the 2030 Agenda.” UN.ORG
What can you do?
We need to understand the world around us. That human rights issues are our issues – and improving them for yourself will help improve the lives of others. We can foster cooperation by coming together for a common goal. This involves listening to others, communicating clearly and often, and acting to problem-solve locally in our own communities.
By living sustainably, you impact others’ human rights and peace on earth. Peace starts with you.
Remember – small actions matter. Are the products you’re consuming leading to deforestation? Do they lead to water or food scarcity? Do your money investments lead to pollution and unsafe environments for your local and global neighbors? Are you contributing to creating inclusive spaces in your work, social, or home life? Are the people in your community heard or marginalized and left out?
Challenging ourselves to ask these types of questions, think critically, and make small changes in our lives can significantly impact the planet’s welfare.
We can choose to be the change we want to see in the world.
Something to grow on
On this week’s something to grow on, I’ll leave you with a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt,
“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home — so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. […] Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”
So thank you for joining me neighbor, until next time – let there be peace on earth, and let it start right here, with us, on Hometown: Earth.
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