Asia-Pacific Forum—2019 Biennial Conference
‘Combating Hate and Discrimination: Dignity for All’
Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher AM
President, Australian Human Rights Commission
Chair, Asia-Pacific Forum
There are common themes and challenges across the member NHRIs in the APF and as shared in the conference. There is the identification of groups as ‘other’, coupled with insecurity can be the tinder for a fire.
There are, indeed, resonances with the 1930s—old demons reappearing:
- Seeing the ‘other’ as less intelligent
- Seeing the ‘other’ as ‘infesting’ as ‘flooding/pouring in’
- Categorising the other in non-human terms—as ‘rats’, ‘cockroaches’
- Blaming the ‘other’, fuelling insecurities
- Reactions in violence encouraged on social media and responses of exclusion
The 1930s were also a slippery slope to genocide.
The Allies’ reaction to the cataclysm of the Second World War and the holocaust led to the formulation of the UDHR. And the words on the holocaust memorial at the Dachau concentration camp site record our collective commitment, ‘Plus jamais’: never again.
The President of the Red Cross in Korea, Dr Kyong-Seo Park reminded us in the opening of the conference that ‘those who do not learn history, are doomed to repeat it’; and Paul Hunt, Chief Commissioner of the New Zealand Commission, quoted a despairing poem of Irish poet, WB Yeats, written in the wake of World War One (‘Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold …..’)
As in the 1930s, vulnerable people ore targets: people with disability, LGBT
We have shared lots of positives.
We have not all sunk in despair.
The Chair of the Korean Commission, Ms Young-Ae Choi, encouraged us to gather collective wisdom.
The collective challenge is to generate a much wider, deeper and forward-looking rights-mindedness—and not seeing human rights as ‘foreign’. We each have a part to play.
Is compassion foreign?
Is decency foreign?
Is respect foreign?
Is dignity foreign?
Human rights begin with us and how we behave in the world.
The focus on youth today has been very encouraging and positive.
I will finish with two quotes. The first is from Eleanor Roosevelt, who chaired the UN committee that formulated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
‘It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness’.
And I will finish with the last stanza of a poem by the Australian Indigenous poet, Oodgeroo Noonuccal, ‘A Song of Hope’:
To our fathers’ fathers
The pain, the sorrow;
To our children’s children
The glad tomorrow.
And now it is over to us to do what we can to ensure that ‘glad tomorrow’.