Joint Op-Ed to Mark Human Rights Day

Standing up for human rights – by the Ambassadors of the UK, Australia, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, Sweden and Czech Republic and Chargé d’Affaires of Germany and the United States of America to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Our nations are up to 15,000km apart – from the top of the world to the bottom – divided by oceans, mountains and deserts. But among the many ties that bind us are 1,778 words – the words that make up the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Today (10 December), on International Human Rights Day, we celebrate the moment when 48 nations, including the UK, Australia, Denmark, Canada, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, Germany, United States of America, Sweden and Ethiopia, came together following the atrocities of the Second World War to set out the rights that every human being is entitled to.

Those of us fortunate enough to have food, clothing, a home, health care and an education are having some of those rights respected. Where poverty persists, the Government of Ethiopia with its partners are committed to tackling the causes to ensure the dignity and worth of every person.

The Productive Safety Net Programme, which provides cash or food transfers to eight million of the poorest people, is ensuring the rights to an adequate standard of living. And the exceptional progress on school enrolment – from 20% in the 1990s to 93% today – is providing millions of Ethiopian children with the right to education.

So 68 years on from the signing of the declaration, we must celebrate our differences and continually strive to turn those 1,778 words – words supported in Ethiopia’s 1995 Constitution - into actions.

That journey continues. The unrest that some parts of Ethiopia recently experienced, which led to the State of Emergency, has been a challenge to realising the Government’s ambitious vision for its citizens. Citizens underline the importance of inclusive and meaningful civic engagement and freedom of expression.

The President and Prime Minister have both committed in the last few weeks to widen democratic platforms to ensure alternative views are expressed. Parliament is also considering an updated human rights implementation plan. It is important that the Government implements the reform agenda set out, which is fundamental to the people of Ethiopia.

Addressing the grievances of protestors and meeting the public’s expectations that the State of Emergency will be lifted soon is vital to securing Ethiopia’s bright future. We are ready to help.

Standing up for human rights means that we all need to say where there is more to be done. This includes freedom of expression, situations where action could have been taken to protect people’s lives and where violations could have been investigated more thoroughly to ensure justice for the victims.

Raising this is a sign that we wish to see Ethiopia have a strong, prosperous future.

As human beings we all have an obligation to stand up for human rights.  As Ambassadors to Ethiopia we will support human rights, support those who are working for human rights and support the dignity and worth of everyone.