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Final Statement of the Human Rights Defenders Forum

Restoring Faith in Freedom

Final Statement of the Human Rights Defenders Forum

Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter joined human rights defenders from 36 countries gathered at The Carter Center in calling for citizens and governments to work urgently to address the unequal treatment of people worldwide based on their race, gender, nationality, ethnicity, religion, or social and economic status.

“All human beings are equal in the eyes of God,” Carter said. “And it is the duty of each one of us to realize this mandate from our common Creator.”

Activists at the forum reported on the disturbing erosion of human rights across the globe, from rising political repression to growing numbers without an adequate standard of living. We stand in solidarity to reverse this trend that, if left unchecked, could derail democracy and strain people’s faith in its most trusted institutions while also threatening basic, universal human rights – including the ability to thrive, not merely survive.

When peaceful human rights movements are repressed, when human rights defenders are threatened, and when 42 individuals own as much wealth as the bottom 50 percent of the world’s population, we are clearly faced with a moral, political, and economic crisis. Even in the United States – the richest country on earth – the economy since the early 1980s has enriched a few, leaving the vast majority behind.

Human rights defenders in the United States, like those from other countries, reported increasing attacks on political rights, including the right to protest and even the right to vote.

The answer to turning the tide lies 70 years in our past. In December 1948, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common foundation for human freedom and dignity.

Today, we strongly reject the abandonment and neglect of the human rights framework and commit to the indivisibility of rights and the ambitious, achievable vision set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We are at a pivotal moment, as we use our collective voice for all human rights.

* We urge all citizens and governments to measure success against the commitments stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. We ask that they give priority to human rights in the allocation of resources. We also urge that all possible action be taken to protect human rights defenders and their families, and to safeguard those fleeing persecution.

* We urge private-sector actors, as they play a vital role in building strong economies, to incorporate human rights considerations into their business practices and support innovations for wider enjoyment of human rights. Corporate entities that exert influence to undermine human rights must be held accountable by governments and their peoples.

* We urge international financial institutions to take an active part in the public discourse and listen to human rights defenders and other citizens who bring indispensible perspectives and solutions. Because these institutions have a direct and immediate impact on policy decisions in the poorest countries, we ask them to reassess conditions for fiscal support, so that human rights are not a casualty of economic efficiency.

* We urge civil society to work with human rights defenders to co-create a truly global movement with a clear vision of the world that we will build together. Religious leaders, with their moral voice, have a special role to play in galvanizing this movement. We will develop collaborative strategies, deepen our solidarity, and share learning.

Human rights – workers’ and women’s rights, rights to freedom of expression, thought, and religion, voting rights, rights to education, health care, and adequate housing – are indivisible, and protecting them requires that we all keep faith with the promise of democracy, with our core beliefs, and with one another.

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