The European Union Delegation to South Sudan, along with the embassies of the Netherlands and the UK in Juba on Tuesday treated human rights defenders (HRDs), government and opposition politicians, security officials and diplomats to a special event: speed dating to commemorate the International Human Rights Day.
The concept of speed dating was new to many attendees but also exciting! Dispensing with the usual protocol that accompanies such events, the EU Ambassador Dr. Sinead Walsh quickly introduced the purpose of the evening: "The EU Delegation and all six of the EU member states based here in Juba, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden and UK support human rights defenders in South Sudan in various ways. Their role is critical and it is vital that they have the space to play this role. In South Sudan, creating an environment that is conducive for the sustainable peace that we all want involves upholding rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly."
"Together with the South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network in South Sudan which was registered earlier this year, we have a fun evening of networking and learning ahead. We will engage in some ‘human rights' speed-dating’. You may not know what that is but don’t worry; we are possibly inventing it this evening! All will be revealed," Dr. Walsh said in her welcoming remarks, to a round of applause from the bemused gathering.
The HRDs tagged with green ribbons were paired with the blue ribbon tagged members of government, opposition leaders or diplomats during the speed dating session.
Over 50 HRDs participated enthusiastically—some were from Juba and others from across South Sudan who the organisers had flown in for the event. The HRDs, including a well-known bishop, enthusiastically mingled with ministers, presidential advisors, security officials, opposition leaders and ambassadors and shared their experiences on human rights.
This is the first ever human rights speed dating in South Sudan, and maybe even anywhere in the world! "I must admit I was not sure what ‘human rights speed dating’ would be like. But it was hugely informative and a lot of fun. Congratulations," UK's Ambassador Chris Trott tweeted after the event.
The European Union is committed to supporting democracy and human rights in its external relations, in accordance with its founding principles of liberty, democracy and respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.