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Human rights: Now more than ever

Happy Human Rights Day 2015, everyone! We need to uphold human rights, now more than ever. As United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reminds us, “On Human Rights Day, let us recommit to guaranteeing the fundamental freedoms and protecting the human rights of all.”

President Nelson Mandela spoke from experience that, “to deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.” Donald Trump’s hate-filled and dangerous rhetoric serves as a verbal warning of the violence that will occur when base fear, ignorance and entitlement are allowed to flourish, unchecked. The terrorist attacks in Paris - like terrorist attacks everywhere - were an assault on us all, on all of humanity. A photograph of Jewish concentration camp survivors’ arms with tattooed numbers are a physical reminder of the atrocious outcome of discrimination taken to genocidal levels.

No matter a person’s age, geography or wealth, we all have some sense of what unfairness feels like. With practice, we are capable of imagining how others may be experiencing injustice. We can reflect on how we may be unconsciously or even knowingly contributing to others’ suffering. Innumerable images and stories portraying experiences of discrimination today and throughout human history are accessible to anyone open to listening and understanding. We can all learn a different, better way of being with each other in the world.

When I reflect on my professional life, my work spans a number of fields: sexual and reproductive health, HIV prevention, LGBTQ health, abortion rights, global health, values clarification, global competence and ethical global citizenry. Beyond the specific issues of lesbian health in North Carolina, guinea worm disease in Togo or abortion access around the world, they all share a common thread: advancing human rights.

To facilitate the realization of human rights, I engage with people and the institutions they create to:

  • Connect with their deeply-held values and understanding of their own humanity

  • Practice empathy

  • Unlearn internalized oppression and false notions of supremacy

  • Relearn to value and respect the capacity, ability and rights of others

  • Grow, transform and gain practical skills

  • Meaningfully connect with others around the world

  • Act and live in alignment with their core values

  • Live their mission

Ultimately, my life’s purpose and work center on strengthening the capacity of people and the institutions they create to realize their full potential, live and work in alignment with their values, interact more humanely and ethically and work together to improve public wellbeing and effect positive social transformation for the good of all.

In sum, I live and work to advance human rights.

Join me in this human rights practice. Join me in celebrating Human Rights Day – every day.


Katherine L. Turner is Founder and President of Global Citizen, LLC; Senior Advisor and Manager at Ipas and Adjunct Instructor at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Linked In.

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