Each year, 10th of December marks the day, when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted with a view to express a universal commitment towards the respect and protection of human rights for all individuals without discrimination. This year, UDHR turns 71 and we also celebrate the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Yet fundamental human rights continue to be challenged around the world, including in the occupied Palestinian territory. Palestinian children in particular face significant obstacles in accessing basic services and enjoying their fundamental human rights. Some of the obstacles are developmental in nature and at times linked to cultural and religious issues as, for example, the case with child marriage or gender based violence. However, the major factor that impedes the full realisation of children’s rights in the oPt is the decades-long Israeli occupation, including the Gaza blockade. It is clear that children are disproportionately affected by the conflict and occupation. An unacceptable number of Palestinian child casualties have been attributed to Israeli forces and many Palestinian children are held in detention by Israeli forces over security offences. Moreover, restrictions on the freedom of movement severely impact on Palestinian children’s enjoyment of their fundamental human rights, including the right to education and the right to health.
Therefore, for International Human Rights Day this year, the EU and the UN Human Rights Office in the oPt launched a campaign to the Palestinian public, with a specific emphasis on the role of Palestinian children and youth. The campaign aims at engaging Palestinian youth in spreading key human rights messages and to raise the public awareness on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a solid base complemented by all core human rights instruments. We displayed key messages from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on billboards and LED screens in visible and dynamic locations throughout the occupied Palestinian territory; and launched a social media campaign by Palestinian youth influencers and journalists who were engaged to conduct interviews and gather reactions from the public on the messages displayed, and post them on social media.
Youth human rights defenders, globally and in Palestine, are taking to the streets to demand respect for their rights: civil, political, economic, social and cultural. The European Union and the UN Human Rights Office in the oPt recognise the importance of the work of youth human rights defenders often in the face of great adversity and personal cost. We call upon the duty-bearers to support and acknowledge the prominent role of youth human rights defenders, and to allow youth human rights defenders to work in a safe and enabling environment, free from obstruction and insecurity.