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Human Rights Milestones: Challenges and development in Asia

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milestones_cover.jpgIn conjunction with the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, it is with much pleasure and solidarity that I present you FORUM-ASIA’s publication on “Human Rights Milestones: Challenges and Development in Asia”. This book is specially dedicated to all human rights defenders and their supporters – whether they are well-known, nameless or unsung heroes of human rights in Asia – who have contributed, many risking their lives, for the development of human rights in the past 60 years. In every country, every region, there are names and faces, too numerous to record here, that we would never forget. They have given us endless inspiration and remain a beacon of hope as we go along this journey to struggle for human rights and dignity.

The purpose of this book is not only to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which we celebrated in 2008, but to contemplate what is to come after this significant milestone. For now is the time, as human rights defenders, to ask ourselves, how have we lived up to the visions of the UDHR, so painstakingly drafted in 1948?

“Sixty years on, we are still a very long way from achieving the goals laid down in the Universal Declaration. No country in the world can sit back complacently and say ‘We’re there’”, said Ms Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights, on 12 December 2008, in Geneva, during a commemorative session on the occasion of the 60th Anniversary of the UDHR.1

Likewise, in his address to the UN Human Rights Council on that eventful day, UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, while offering his congratulations to “all the activists who refused to be silenced by their tormenters; who knew that right must triumph over might”, said: “We have come a long way, but the reality is that we have not lived up to its vision – at least not yet. As we mark this milestone, we must also acknowledge the savage inhumanity that too many people in our world must endure. There is no time to rest.”2

It is in this spirit that FORUM-ASIA, as a leading membership based regional human rights organisation in the region, recognised the importance of documenting these milestones achieved and the upheavals faced by human rights defenders in Asia, especially in the last 60 years. It is imperative that our voices are recorded to enable us to draw lessons from them and to push forward, with heightened solidarity and clarity in perspectives to realise the visions of the UDHR.

Although many international standards including the UDHR have been adopted for almost 60 years, the on-going violations across Asia persist, while impunity has been flourishing in the region and the violators continue to be let loose and not brought to justice.

On the other hand, there are also success stories, where the work of human rights defenders have impacted and improved the lives of people. These stories must be documented in order to define the milestones that make up the journey of the human rights movement in Asia.

This book is divided into several topics chosen to cover key issues in Asia. These topics were specially chosen to reflect the various cross cutting and inter-related country and thematic issues that FORUM-ASIA and its members and partners are currently working on.

Please click here to download the whole content of the book (4.2MB, pdf).