“Human rights principles and processes are important tools for the protection of God-given human dignity,” stated Peter Prove, Executive Director of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA), speaking on the occasion of International Human Rights Day – 10 December 2010. Prove stressed the need for churches and related organizations to “pick up these tools, and to use them for the advancement of justice for all – especially for the powerless, the most marginalized and excluded.”
The right to food is also a key principle for the EAA’s “Food for Life” campaign. In an initiative to enhance accountability to the right to food and other “economic, social and cultural rights”, EAA members who participated in a recent advocacy capacity building seminar in Nairobi are challenging their governments to ratify an Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which will enable individuals and groups whose rights have been denied to appeal to an international committee of independent experts.
Letters have already been sent to Kenyan government officials by the United Methodist Church – East Africa Annual Conference Kenya Chapter and the World YWCA. Other EAA partners and members are gathering signatures from other churches and Christian organizations for action in early 2011.
Not only will the ratification of the Optional Protocol help protect the basic rights of people and communities, the process of sending the letters have raised awareness within churches, communities – and governments – of the importance of rights and the mechanisms available. “It is interesting to note that the African Union, to which EAA partners had written on this matter, was not even aware of the Protocol,” noted Angeline Munzara, EAA’s Food Campaign Coordinator.
EAA members DanChurchAid, Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO), and Brot für die Welt, as well as EAA, also participate in the development and promotion of the Right to Food and Nutrition Watch, an annual publication that highlights country case studies and analyzes global processes that undermine food security.
Both EAA campaigns have stressed the human rights to food, health and other essential services in order to emphasize the root injustices facing men, women and children living in poverty.
To further strengthen EAA members’ access to human rights tools for justice, the EAA will host the website of the Human Rights Accountability Project (http://hrap.wikidot.com) from the beginning of 2011, providing simplified information on advocacy opportunities and processes in the UN human rights system. A Human Rights Toolkit is also in development that will empower local communities and churches to document cases of violation or realization of the right to food.
“As Christians, a central part of our faith calls us to work for justice, peace and human dignity,” said Prove. “Human rights give us tools and language that help us pressure governments as well as reaffirm with individuals and communities that all people should have life, and have it abundantly.”
As part of these efforts, the World YWCA concluded today the “16-days of activism against gender-based violence” to highlight the importance of full and equal enjoyment of human rights by women and girls.
“It is widely recognized that gender-based violence is both a cause and consequence of HIV transmission”, said Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, General Secretary of the World YWCA. “Today, women living with HIV continue to experience gross human rights violations that relate to their sexual and reproductive health. It is therefore critical that the advancement of the rights of women and girls is placed at the centre of a comprehensive response to HIV.”
“I am a believer in a rights-based approach,” said Maria Immonen, Director of Development Cooperation for the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission, and a member of the EAA Board. “Advocacy not just for, but by the people themselves will yield more sustainable results and be more effective.”
The EAA is a network of churches, related organizations and Christian groups collaborating in advocacy on two specific topics – HIV and AIDS, and food.
The EAA’s “Live the Promise” campaign on HIV and AIDS calls on members and partners of the Alliance to advocate for human dignity and rights and against all forms of discrimination, and to address the human rights violations that are among the root causes of vulnerability to HIV.
The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is a broad international network of churches and Christian organizations cooperating in advocacy on food and HIV and AIDS. The Alliance is based in Geneva, Switzerland. For more information, see http://www.e-alliance.ch/
Christian World Service is a member of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance.