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Focus on youth as gov’t, UN to mark Human Rights Day

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
People celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh on December 8 last year. UN Cambodia will mark the event on Saturday at the National Olympic Stadium. OHCHR in Cambodia

Focus on youth as gov’t, UN to mark Human Rights Day

The government and UN Cambodia are to celebrate the 71st International Human Rights Day, with both attaching great significance to youth leadership roles in society.

While the government plans to mark the event on Tuesday, UN Cambodia will do so on Saturday at the National Olympic Stadium.

Held under the theme Youth Standing Up for Human Rights, the celebrations will be organised by UN Human Rights in collaboration with the Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC), the UN country team and an EU delegation.

In a statement, the UN Human Rights said the event will cast a light on youth leadership roles as a source of inspiration for a better future.

“Under our global call to action ‘Stand Up for Human Rights’ we will celebrate the potential of youth as constructive agents of change, amplify their voices and engage a broad range of global audiences in the promotion and protection of rights,” it said.

As part of the celebrations, the UN body will also bestow its 2019 Youth Human Rights Champion Awards on outstanding young people for promoting human rights through their participation in communities in Cambodia.

The event will also see a live concert and original performances by renowned Cambodian artists, it said.

Meanwhile, CHRC spokesperson Chin Malin said the government’s human rights body will hold a separate celebration on December 10 at the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) Cambodia Centre with a focus on youth leadership roles.

Like the rest of the world, he said the government considered youth an integral part of societal development.

While hailing their leadership roles, Malin also noted that youth could bring about positive as well as negative changes to society.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
People celebrate the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10 last year. OHCHR CAMBODIA

Negative changes, he said, can lead to destruction and tragedy. He cited as an example, youth-led uprisings in the region and the Arab world.

“Youth participation is influential, so we are marking this day to highlight their role in making positive changes. But only responsible youths can bring about such changes,” he stressed.

Malin also stressed that youths need to have a clear understanding of the law, the original concept of human rights, and refrain from exercising such rights beyond the legal limits. Otherwise, he said, their “irresponsible” participation will bring about destruction.

Local rights group Adhoc senior investigator Soeng Sen Karuna was of the view that youths were currently less interested in human rights issues.

Over the years, he said their advocacy for justice and human rights had been met with obstruction, threats and constant monitoring by the authorities.

“So the number of those who work on human rights has decreased because of various factors including threats and fears.

“We have observed that youths had been encouraged and engaged in various activities, but not for the right cause. They have not been encouraged to carry out activities that promote social justice and human rights,” he said.

Sen Karuna urged the government to respect the fundamental rights of citizens equally. While he acknowledged that the government had done its part to promote human rights over the years, he said it had somehow stifled political rights.

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