Charlotta Sparre
The Jordan Times (Opinion)
December 10, 2009 - 1:00am

Today is the international day of human rights, marking the anniversary of the United Nations adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

Over the years, a whole system of human rights instruments and mechanisms has been developed to ensure the supremacy of human rights and to tackle human rights violations, wherever they may take place.

This year marks the anniversaries of two centrepieces of this global human rights system: the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (turning 30) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (turning 20). It is also the 60th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions on international humanitarian law, which apply in armed conflict. These anniversaries are opportunities for us all to look ahead at how to continue to improve implementation of these key norms.

The conventions on women and children represent closely related areas. And they represent areas where a lot of efforts have been made in Jordan during recent years. The tireless work of Her Majesty Queen Rania and of Her Royal Highness Princess Basma deserves a special mentioning here, as well as work by institutions such as the Jordanian National Commission for Women, the National Centre for Human Rights and numerous civil society organisations.

During this autumn, the European Union, together with the Jordanian National Commission for Women, highlighted women’s rights by holding a conference on strengthening the role of women in society. The conference highlighted the many challenges that women face in Jordan and many issues that need to be dealt with. It also showed the richness of debate and competence that exist in the country, both among officials and civil society.

The European Union fosters the universality and indivisibility of all human rights - civil, political, economic, social and cultural - as stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law are fundamental parts of the European project. We believe that adherence to these principles constitutes a prerequisite for peace, development and security in any society. We also believe that the EU has a global responsibility to work for peace, freedom, democracy and human rights to the benefit of all.

The European Union has over the years agreed on a number of guidelines regarding human rights issues and respect for international humanitarian law. These include guidelines on death penalty, on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, on human rights dialogues with third countries, on children and armed conflict, on human rights defenders, on promotion and protection of the rights of the child, on violence against women and girls and combating all forms of discrimination against them, and on international humanitarian law.

In Jordan, the European Union, both through individual member states and through the Delegation of the European Union, cooperates with various parts of the Jordanian society in assisting efforts to make further improvements with respect to human rights, as well as to the reform process to create a more open and democratic society. These will be important issues to address in the process for enhanced relations between Jordan and the EU.

One of the important partners in this process is the Ministry of Political Development, which recently became a welcomed addition to the ministerial committee leading the work on enhanced status.

Strengthening human rights needs not only government involvement. The civil society is also of immense significance in this process. On this day, it is therefore also of great importance to acknowledge the numerous people and organisations in Jordan that work determinedly, often heroically, on a daily basis to ensure equal rights for all.

Celebrating the Human Rights Day, it is important to look back with pride on what has been done to improve human rights in Europe and Jordan. One should, however, never forget the challenges that still lie ahead.

The writer is Sweden’s ambassador to Jordan. She contributed this article to The Jordan Times


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