FIDH chief warns of global set back in human rights

By Nerea Gonzalez

Paris, Oct 22 (EFE).- Shortly after World War I, 20 European organizations came together to forge the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the first supranational league of its kind.

One hundred years later, despite numerous achievements, its members warn that the world faces a period of “regression”.

“There is a setback, all over the world, in terms of human rights. And it includes the countries in which we think that the rule of law and democracy have already been conquered,” Eléonore Morel, FIDH executive director, tells Efe in an interview ahead of the organization’s 41st congress set to start in Paris on Sunday.

The gathering will mark the body’s centenary and the recent Nobel Peace Prize award to two of its partner organizations: Memorial (a Russian rights group) and the Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine). The organizations shared the 2022 prize with Belarusian activist Ales Bialiatski.

It is not the first time FIDH members have been lauded, but it never stops being a source of “great pride,” Morel says.

“It shows, once again, that together we are stronger,” the director continues.

“At FIDH, it is very important to bring these organizations together and to show that civil society is united in the face of dictatorial behavior and supreme power,” she adds.

Especially given that human rights defenders currently face a period of heightened vigilance.

“The situation is worrying, not only in authoritarian countries where rights are questioned, but also in countries where we think that the principle of universality has been achieved,” Morel says, citing recent elections in Italy and the legal setbacks for abortion rights in the United States.

The invasion of Ukraine will no doubt play a central role at the 41st Congress, but FIDH will ensure it does not overshadow other ongoing conflicts such as the Syrian war, the clampdown on women in Iran and Afghanistan and the war in Yemen, which, she says, the international community barely mentions.

The institution will also call for the release of Amal, a twenty-year-old Sudanese woman who has been sentenced to death by stoning for committing adultery.

According to Morel, FIDH avoids “a very Eurocentric” and “Western” approach, a criticism many NGOs face and that raises mistrust among some communities.

“Being a federation protects us a little (…) It gives us more legitimacy to avoid criticism of being a foreign presence.”

Morel says that organizations must regain “control” of the human rights narrative from the “anti” movements.

“The universal declaration of human rights is our compass and it is what should guide humanity, that is the message,” she adds.

It is also time to start thinking about the struggles humanity will face in the next 100 years.

‘Ask the Future’ is the slogan for the centenary congress, for which FIDH has prepared a list of ten rights for the future.

From the climate crisis to digital rights, to the “right to truth” in an increasingly interconnected world, “sharing information has allowed for greater awareness of citizens’ rights, but it also has negative consequences.”

“Today we are aware of the problems linked to fake news, all the risks that they entail and the way in which citizens can be manipulated,” Morel warns.

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