Human Rights Summit Celebrates the 70th Anniversary of the UDHR

The 15th annual Human Right Summit of Youth for Human Rights International accomplished many milestones while bringing together exceptional young human rights advocates with high-level leaders in the venue that symbolizes international cooperation toward common goals — UN headquarters in New York.

United Nations in New York

The 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the theme of 15th annual Human Rights Summit of Youth for Human Rights International (YHRI). The first two days of the three-day program July 5–7 were held in the Economic and Social Council Chamber at United Nations headquarters in New York.

The summit was sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica to the UN and co-sponsored by the permanent missions of Cyprus, Australia and Romania and an additional 17 NGOs. 

Human rights around the world will benefit from a new breed of diplomats who are unconditionally guided by principles and values.

H.E. Mr. Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States

UN TV broadcast the opening session live. The recording is available to view on the UN website. 

  • 94 Youth Delegates and Ambassadors were selected to represent 57 countries, based on their stellar accomplishments in the field of human rights: Youth Ambassadors are former Delegates who have continued to champion human rights.
  • 35 UN ambassadors and diplomats attended the summit.
  • In all, more than 400 officials, diplomats, NGO representatives and human rights activists from 73 countries participated in the summit events.

The program featured two human rights icons as the keynote speakers: Brigadier General Alberto Sepúlveda Riaño of the National Army of Colombia and Mr. Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States. Both men are dedicated to securing the human rights of those they serve and are outspoken advocates of the Youth for Human Rights educational initiative as a means of bringing this about.

In his presentation, Mr. Almagro stressed the importance of focusing on human rights:

"I invite you to become a genuine ambassador of humanity, and a representation of ethical diplomacy," he said. "Human rights around the world will benefit from a new breed of diplomats who are unconditionally guided by principles and values, led by the very basic notion of our condition as human beings and the universality of the alienable rights that we are all entitled to ... It is really a pleasure to join you in this beautiful chamber and address this young audience that, to me, represents the promise of a new generation that will pave the way for ethical diplomacy to prevail and govern."

Youth Delegates delivered presentations on the human rights activities that earned them the honor of representing their countries at the summit.

Dr. Mary Shuttleworth, Youth for Human Rights International founder and president, presented the annual Human Rights Hero Awards to three outstanding humanitarians:

  • David Kritsun and Youth for Human Rights of Israel for uniting diverse ethnic and religious communities in ancient conflict zones. Through their work, they have extended human rights education across 23 regions of Tel Aviv and to nearly 100,000 in Jerusalem, thus building a foundation for peace and common understanding.
  • Mr. Nfamara Jawneh, founder and executive director of Beekanyang Kafo, a human rights NGO. For 22 years under a dictatorship in the Gambia, he was a leading voice and major force to bring change through his broad human rights awareness and democracy campaign. His grassroots activities reached more than 20,000, directly teaching them human rights. He collaborates with the new democratic national government and nongovernmental agencies to build a framework for human rights education.
  • Despite constant risk and active threat from the Islamic State, Mr. Issa Sufyan Hussein has trained more than 1,000 intelligence, security and police personnel in Kurdistan on human rights. He was one of the first to use and implement the United and Youth for Human Rights curriculum in Kurdish and now trains other educators to carry his activities forward.

The third day of the three-day program was a multicultural celebration hosted by the Church of Scientology Harlem Community Center. It began with a workshop for the delegates followed by a human rights open house. The Youth Delegates and Ambassadors were welcomed to Harlem by Queen Mother Dr. Delois N. Blakely, honorary Community Mayor of Harlem, and the program featured presentations by Youth Delegates and dignitaries and performances by local talent.

Youth Delegates and Ambassadors were then organized into eight teams and went out into neighborhoods around New York to talk to others about their rights, inspired by the Youth for Human Rights public service announcement for UDHR article 29, "Responsibility," which calls on all people to take responsibility to educate others on the UDHR.

Youth returned home inspired, energized and equipped with materials and skills to fully implement human rights education in their countries.

Source: Youth for Human Rights International

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