What are human rights?
Human rights are rights that we possess simply because we exist as human beingsin the realms of political power. In other words, they are not granted by any State Government or any national or international institution. Therefore, these universal rights are inherent to us all, regardless of our nationality, sex, ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other personal attribute or status.
Human rights range from the most fundamental for example our right to life to those that make life worth living, such as a right to food, education, work or to earn a reasonable standard of living, health, liberty and our right to live in a healthy and sustainable environment. To name just a few.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 1948 (just after the conclusion of World War 2), was the first legal document to ensure that our fundamental human rights were universally protected. The UDHR, which will turn 73 in 2021, continues be the foundation of all international human rights laws. Its 30 Articles provide the principles and the building blocks of current and future human rights Conventions, Treaties and other primary and secondary instruments of international law.
The UDHR, together with the 2 Covenants – the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the International Covenant for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) – make up the International Bill of Rights.
What does the Sikh Human Rights Group do to protect your human rights?
Sikh Human Rights Group (SHRG) is an NGO with Special Consultative Status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). ECOSOC is the principal organ that coordinates the economic, social, environmental and related work of the 14 United Nations specialized agencies, functional commissions and five regional commissions. It serves as the central forum for discussing international economic, and social and environmental issues, and for formulating policy recommendations addressed to Member States and the United Nations system.
ECOSOC also remains the only primary UN body with a formal framework for NGO participation. This accreditation framework benefits both the United Nations and SHRG when are Human Rights Officers and affiliate organisations are working to uphold your most basic human rights. For instance, as stated by Resolution 1996/31 on the ‘Consultative relationship between the United Nations and non-governmental organisations’:
‘Consultative arrangements are to be made, on the one hand, for the purpose of enabling the Council or one of its bodies to secure expert information or advice from organizations having special competence in the subjects for which consultative arrangements are made, and, on the other hand, to enable international, regional, sub-regional and national organizations that represent important elements of public opinion to express their views.’
Therefore, SHRG contributes to ECOSOCs essential mandate or work by:
• Providing expert analysis and opinions on human rights issues directly from the field. By promoting a pluralistic approach to issues at the United Nations;
• Serving as an early warning agent;
• Helping to implement international agreements;
• Helping to monitor international agreements;
• Helping to raise awareness of global human rights issues; and
• By playing a major role in advancing the United Nations goals and objectives.
However, on the other hand ECOSOC provides SHRG with the opportunity to be heard by a truly global audience and to contribute to its agenda. For instance, owing to our Special Consultative Status SHRG can:
• Attend UN international conferences and events;
• Participate in debates, interactive dialogues, panel discussions and informal meetings;
• Submit written and oral statements at these events;
• Organise side events which focus on our specialist areas of expertise;
• Enter UN premises; and
• Network and lobby with a wide variety of UN personnel, official government delegations, prominent international institutions and NGO representatives working in the same or a similar field.
SHRGs participation at the United Nations Human Rights Council
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is the principal UN intergovernmental body responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights. It is composed of 47 Member States and meets for at least three sessions each year in Geneva.
Its role includes addressing violations of human rights, including gross and systematic violations, the promotion of respect for human rights for all, and effective coordination and mainstreaming of human rights within the UN system.
During a given session (regular sessions), the Council considers the activities of its subsidiary human rights procedures and mechanisms and may organize panel discussions and special events to enhance dialogue and mutual understanding on specific issues.
Outside its normal sessions, the Council may also hold special sessions related to country-specific or thematic issues.
Therefore, and despite the fact that the UNHRC is not a subsidiary of ECOSOC only NGOs with Consultative Status can be accredited to participate in the Human Rights Council’s sessions:
Therefore, SHRG can amongst various other matters:
• Attend and observe all proceedings of the Human Rights Council with the exception of the Council deliberations under the Complaints Procedure;
• Submit written statements to the Human Rights Council;
• Make oral interventions to the Human Rights Council;
• Participate in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) which involves a review of the human rights records of all 192 United Nations Member States once every four years;
• Participate in debates, interactive dialogues, panel discussions and informal meetings; and
• Organize ‘parallel events’ on issues relevant to the work of the Human Rights Council.
What does Sikh Human Rights Group believe?
The Sikh Human Rights Group (SHRG) promotes pluralism, environmental sustainability, diversity, human rights and responsibilities. It is based on Sikh philosophy. With emphasis on pluralism SHRG champions good intentions and diverse approaches in different civilisations, cultures and Peoples.
All human beings and communities co-existing with dignity and in harmony with each other and with nature and with the cosmos as taught by Sikhi.
Therefore, SHRG promotes the principles of Sikh philosophy in the fields of voluntary sector activities, research and human rights work through projects and by supporting, funding and working in partnership with other organisations and individuals regardless of their belief, religion, race or nationality.
What do we mean by pluralism?
In order for us to unearth the meaning and the significance of pluralism it is extremely important that we first turn our attentions to considering the ethical philosophy of universalism.
Universalism: Sikh Human Rights Group (SHRG) believes that there is tendency, amongst the international human rights community and prominent international organisations such as the United Nations, towards universalising ethical values and attempting to form Conventions, Treaties, Regulations and Agreements on the basis of assuming a universal set of collective values.
In other words, universalism is the idea that one size fits all or that one set of International Conventions, Treaties, Regulations and Agreements are directly applicable to all countries around the world and are the key to solving all of the human rights issues around the globe. However, SHRG believes that this model fails to consider the indisputable fact that different countries have different approaches to the political, economic, social, environmental and historical factors that influence their governance or societies.
Pluralism: Therefore, pluralism is the view that in liberal democracies power is (or should be) dispersed amongst a variety of economic and ideological pressure groups and is not (or should not be) held by a single elite group or group of elites.
In other words, pluralism assumes that diversity is beneficial to society and that autonomy should be enjoyed by disparate functional or cultural groups within society, including religious groups, trade unions, professional organisations, non-governments human rights organisations and ethnic minorities.
Therefore, SHRG does not demand that prominent international organisations such as the United Nations and its subsidiary bodies immediately adopts a pluralistic view of the world. However, we do urge relevant office holders to consider the benefits of adopting a pluralistic approach when it comes to the formulation, enactment and implementation of international human rights Conventions, Treaties, Regulations and Agreements around the globe.
To learn more about pluralism please see SHRG current work on the Environment or SHRG World Views of Nature Project.