Human rights work called unfinished
'There is hope,' progress, ethicist tells conference

Friday, December 4, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

As observers reflect on the 50 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there is a sense of progress being made.

"There is hope," said Joel Rosenthal, president of the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs.

He is in Cincinnati for a series of events for the World Affairs Council of Greater Cincinnati.

Speaking before about 50 people Thursday at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Cincinnati, Mr. Rosenthal noted actions such as the civil rights movement speak to the progress.

But continued complaints about injustice in the United States and abroad show there is work to be done, he cautions.

In 1948, when the Universal Declaration was created, human rights was an unknown phrase, Mr. Rosenthal said. The world was still reeling from the horrors of the Holocaust and was dealing with the effects of decolonization, he said.

The declaration called for rights such as freedom from slavery, a right to life and liberty as well as equal protection against discrimination. It was adopted on Dec. 10, 1948, by the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Joel Rosenthal and Ohio Treasurer Ken Blackwell will take part in a noon luncheon today to discuss the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The luncheon is at the Queen City Club, 331 E. Fourth St. Call 621-2320 for reservations. Cost: $35 for World Affairs Council of Greater Cincinnati members; $45 for non-members.
Mr. Rosenthal, who is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Politics at New York University, said efforts have been made in the name of human rights. His New York organization promotes the understanding of the values and conditions that ensure peaceful relations among nations and bring the differing sides together. Advocates of human rights, through, must walk a tightrope between a community's right to home rule and ensuring the basic universal rights of humans, he said.

Also Thursday, the group Human Rights Watch released a report detailing rights abuses in other countries and accusing the United States of taking too passive a role as a bystander. Some of its findings: The Iraqi government has engaged in a broad array of violations, including mass arrests, torture, summary executions and forced relocations.

In Argentina, police brutality has continued to be the major human rights concern, followed by threats and attacks on independent journalists.

In Afghanistan, the ultraconservative Islamic Taliban has conducted public executions and established a pattern of repression of women on religious grounds.

But there are many rights laws that have been written in the past 50 years, not only in the United States, but in other countries as well that protect human rights, said William Vocke, president of the World Affairs Council of Greater Cincinnati.

Yet the Human Rights Watch reports said that in the United States, there remains racial inequality and a reliance on the death penalty, and incidents of police abuse continue to be reported.

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