When Talking about Human Rights! July 26, 2019 byRaimy Khalife-Hamdan
I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Oxford Consortium on Human Rights at Oxford University this July. This year’s focus was on migration and human movement— and what a relevant topic today, in a world where earth, location, and humans blend together. I have been thinking about human rights, and wondering about what forms of dialogue are most effective, valuable, and generally appropriate in terms of talking about human rights. Am I, as one person, capable of determining or evaluating what a universal standard for freedoms and immunities could be? I do not believe so. Commonly, conversation about human rights takes place in global conferences or small consortiums where the majority of speakers and audiences are from the Global North— mostly countries that are able to afford time and a socio-political pause in order to discuss standards of humanity. I believe that we need to find some way to prioritize the Global South in this dialogue. When we talk about human rights, certain themes such as human trafficking, asylum seeking, refugee law, and human displacement are raised. Why do we not consult directly with those that are most targeted? Those that are most marginalized, those that find themselves experiencing the pain, trauma, confusion, and brokenness that stems from movement. Standards are focused on objectivity and on enforcing certain laws. And yet, still, human movement has become largely politicized and, ironically, the more people migrate and join a new culture, the more the world seems to divide morally. I do not believe that human movement should ever be objective. It cannot be. We cannot universalize the experience of migration and of displacement. Humans, particularly at our consortiums and organizations, attempt to organize the world and humanity. We want to categorize, to classify, to find a way to draw lines to avoid confusion. However, confusion is unpreventable. The truth is that movement is messy. There is never a clear rule that we can draw, because morally, this is unjust. Humans thrive, humans move, humans seek. And humans suffer. Just as we honor and celebrate humans’ achievements at events like the World Cup or the Oscars, we need to honor human suffering as well. We need to dedicate attention — not only monetary, although this can be helpful— to those that need our eyes and ears.
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