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Human rights week observance and electronic mail conference

Key-Note Address.....

Working for Human Rights
Berhane Ras-Work, W/O
Inter-African Committee,
Geneva, Switzerland

On December 10, 1948, the United Nations expressed a firm commitment to the
recognition and respect of human rights by adopting the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights and by resolving to uphold the principles
contained as a set of standards and code of conduct in democratic governance.

The noble principles of human rights reflected in the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights and the subsequent covenants and conventions confirm the
inalienable and inviolable rights of the individual, regardless of
differences in color, creed, sex, ethnic origin or otherwise. These guiding
principles offer hope and inspiration for the observance of justice,
equality and tolerance, all of which are necessary conditions for
maintaining long lasting peace.

The International Conference on Human Rights, held in 1993 in Vienna,
Austria, reaffirmed the universality and indivisibility of human rights,
thus giving vitality and vigor to the declared objectives of respect for
fundamental freedom. Visible global mobilization and advocacy are witnessed
to advance the respect for human rights. However, despite the expressed
concern about human rights, this century is marked by the most brutal and
widespread spread abuse, genocide, torture and exclusion perpetrated by
states which have signed and ratified many of the international instruments.
Kidnapping, killing, arbitrary detention of members of opposition parties
are commonly practiced by governments who claim to be democratic.

Ethnic and religious differences and identities are manipulated and misused
by political leaders who have usurped power by bullets to maintain their
position through a system of "divide and rule". State terror instituted
against innocent citizens have forced millions to flee from their countries
of origin and seek asylum elsewhere. Ethnic conflicts instigated by the
power elite and nurtured by economic interests have installed lamentable
human conditions in many parts of the world including Africa. Suspicion,
fear and intolerance coupled with ignorance and poverty are the principle
causes of these unhappy situations.

To redress this sad state of affairs, the citizens, especially women, have
to realize their potential for leadership and empower themselves through
education and information in order to present better alternatives in
ideology and governance. Women's traditional role as peace makers, their
effective household management skills, their instinctive respect for human
life regardless of ethnic or religious affiliation , all these human
qualities need to be seriously explored and enhanced in order to enable
women to participate fully in democratic governance and in maintaining peace.

The experience of women throughout their life cycle, the oppression and
violence they suffer prepare them better to stand and fight for justice and
democracy both of which are preconditions for peace. I would like to call
upon Ethiopian women to take up their responsibilities of building nations
and countries where relative peace and prosperity will reign for future

Berhane Ras-work.