Saturday, November 22, 2008

Human Rights and the Conflict in Congo

As we approach the 60th anniversary of the launch of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, I would like to especially draw attention to the crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The bottom line is that war and conflict in the Congo are creating several emergencies where basic human rights are being violated. The crisis has generally been forgotten by most of the world for many years. Read Op-Ed piece in The Christian Science Monitor.

Oxfam, which works to bring relief to many areas of conflict around the world, offers this description of the situation in the sub-Saharan country:
Since war broke out in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1998, more than 5 million people have died—most of them from lack of access to food and health care. And though the conflict officially ended in 2003, fighting has continued, mainly in the country’s eastern provinces. Read full background from Oxfam.
There is no doubt that the UN Declaration of Human Rights applies in so many ways to this situation. Let me point in particular to Article 25 of the Declaration, which states:
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. Click here to see the full declaration (in .pdf format)
While the situation in the Congo appears to be a distant conflict best left to national governments and the community of nations (through the U.N.), we also must consider ways in which we can help.
First, we must encourage the U.S. Congress to introduce legislation that takes direct action. In September, the House of Representatives approved a resolution, HR1227, that has strong language condemning the violence and some very good recommendations, but it falls a little short of direct action.

Another easy way would be to support the efforts of organizations attempting to provide some relief. For example, Oxfam is one of the leading organizations providing water and sanitation. "We are working in the eastern regions of Ituri, North Kivu, and South Kivu where communities are hosting tens of thousands of displaced people," said Oxfam.

Oxfam offers opportunities for you to get involved, either through a donation or simply through raising awareness and other actions.

Another organization working in Congo is Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French name Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

"MSF medical teams carry out emergency surgery, treat injuries including gunshot wounds and burns, run mobile clinics to reach those who have fled to safer, more remote areas, provide health care in hospitals and health centers, treat diseases such as cholera, provide medical care to victims of sexual violence, and provide psychological support to those traumatized by what they have experienced," says the organization.
Read full description and/or click here to see a video. Support MSF efforts. More information

Albuquerque Peacemaker Traveling to Congo

But you can also become involved locally by supporting Albuquerque resident Kathleen O'Malley, who will be traveling to the Congo in January as part of a five-member human rights team. The team will document human rights violations and advocate for non-violence during the stay.

Kathleen, who is a local psychologist and peace activist, will discuss her upcoming trip on Saturday, Dec. 6, at the home of Keith and Judy Bierbaum, 1120 Summit Dr. NE, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. She will show a short documentary film and talk about the team's purposes and activities. She will also offer suggestions/opportunities on how you can help with her efforts, either monetarily or other means.

And while we're talking about the anniversary of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, I would like to also encourage you to attend a whole host of events taking place in Albuquerque on Dec. 3-10 to mark this very important document. Click here to see list.

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