Christians Stress Right to Make Voices Heard on Human Rights Day

The World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) has called for global recognition of communication rights on Human Rights Day today.

This year's Human Rights Day marks the start of a yearlong commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which affirms "the dignity and worth of the human person" and "the equal rights of men and women."

"It is our duty to ensure that these rights are a living reality – that they are known, understood and enjoyed by everyone, everywhere," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated. "It is often those who most need their human rights protected, who also need to be informed that the Declaration exists – and that it exists for them."

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Communication rights, however, are noticeably absent, WACC says.

"Human rights are not just a matter of civil and political rights," says WACC General Secretary the Rev. Randy Naylor. "They include those rights that empower individuals and communities to express their needs, to make their voices heard, and to participate fully in their own development."

The U.K-based organization believes that communication is a basic human right and argues that such a right allows self-determination and contributes to a world built on peace and social justice.

Communication rights are also regarded as vital instruments in achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, fighting HIV and AIDS and other diseases, ensuring environmental stability, and developing global partnerships for development. Moreover, they are necessary for achieving the Millennium Development Goals of halving extreme global poverty and hunger, WACC says.

UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has drawn up a plan of action for the anniversary in 2008 that emphasizes the importance of the right to education; freedom of opinion and expression; the right to seek, receive and impart information; the right to take part in cultural life; and the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications.

A concerted response to civil society's critique of the World Summit on the Information Society, held in 2003 and 2005, is needed to complement UNESCO's plan of action for the year, WACC insists.

At the summit, representatives of civil society had asserted that a strong emphasis on technology must not eclipse the human being as the subject of communication and development.

"Humanity rests in our capacity to communicate with each other and to create community," said the representatives in an issued statement. "It is in the respectful dialogue and sharing of values among peoples, in the plurality of their cultures and civilizations, that meaningful and accountable communication thrives."

The WACC has called on governments, NGOs and the private sector to recognize and strengthen communication rights as an essential component in the development and implementation of political, economic, social and cultural policies, according APD (Adventist Press Service) Switzerland. The organization has stated that there can be no genuine development without human rights and no social justice without communication rights.

Founded in 1968, the WACC has members in 120 countries promoting communication for social change.

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