A Seminar on Civil Courage in the International Arena
This seminar is organized within the framework of the 50th commemoration of Dag Hammarskjöld’s tragic demise in order to honor his integrity and courage.
Every day all over the world, Human Rights and human dignity are trampled under feet by totalitarian regimes, despite their formal allegiance to international human rights instruments. If it were not for the courage of Human Rights defenders, many more would get mistreated, abused, and bereft of their rights. Also, many more would escape their Human Rights crimes with impunity.
The purpose of the seminar is to analyze how we interpret the concept of Civil Courage in 2011 and how it is manifested. We need to ask ourselves if ethical principles are in retreat in today’s society and, if so, what we can do to strengthen them in an international environment. Is the Common Good being overshadowed by individual self-realization in Western society? How can academic thought and activist deeds join forces to guide UN staff who should be the flag carriers of Human Rights? Is there a need for further training and guidance? What can we do to strengthen the implementation of the UN General Assembly resolution on Human Rights defenders? How indeed does one find the courage to stand up unflinchingly for one’s convictions, for justice to others? What support do we need to dare to be “whistle blowers” about mischief within our own organization?
It is the hope that our discussions will provide a solid and inspiring point of departure for a guidebook on ethics for international civil servants. We are proud of the presence at the seminar of UNITAR, the UN Institute for Training and Research, and intend to explore with them avenues towards a learning program on Civil courage for diplomats from UN member states as well as for UN staff.
All discussants at the seminar are – in one way or another – human rights defenders. The majority are NGO activists, several with own experiences, sometimes very harsh, of civil courage under duress. Among the participants are also writers, a judge, a diplomat, and two academics.
The seminar will start in the morning of June 10 and close at lunchtime next day. The audience will consist of a maximum of 20 persons apart from the discussants. Apart from DHF board members and staff, these will be representatives of kindred organizations with an engagement for the UN and for Human rights. A brief discussion will ensue after each presentation, with initial inputs from discussants.
Dag Hammarskjöld was a protagonist for the virtues of commitment, integrity and a strong sense of social accountability, as well as of the belief in the equality and dignity of all human beings.
The DHF strongly supports the international normative framework for the protection of Human Rights, but we also believe that this framework would be reduced to a symbol if there were not “whistle blowers” who risk their health, their future and the safety of their families to fight for justice for others. It is in order to be inspired by them and in return to try and offer them stronger protection that we organize this seminar.