Human rights: SOAS students speak out

Human rights - Development Studies

Yuen Lo, MRES Finance and Management

It is easy to look at 2016 in the context of respect for human life and feel depressed. It is easy to imagine that human rights are no longer what they used to be.

At moments like these I think back to a specific event from Boxing Day 2004. This was the day that an earthquake in the Indian Ocean led to a Tsunami that led to extreme devastation across countries thousands of miles apart.

To countries thousands of miles from us.

The response from people around the world was unprecedented. I remember the ways that people donated at work, at the tube station and even as they paid for their groceries in Sainsbury’s.

This unprecedented outpouring of charity ultimately exceeded $6bn, half of which came not from countries but from individuals like you and me.

The world is suffering from catastrophe fatigue. However we, the students of SOAS, do not believe human rights are worth any less today than we did that Christmas twelve years ago. We believe that the lines that divide us from people thousands of miles away are created by fear. We reject fear and embrace humanity.

Natalie Bernad, MA International Studies and Diplomacy

But let’s be real, are we really living in a world where human rights matter? Where the rights of people are more important than profit or power? As a 23 year old American woman I can not help but think of my own country’s deplorable track record for human rights abuses, at home and abroad. From the people of Flint, Michigan not having access to clean water to police brutality and the blatant misconduct and murder of many, where are human rights within America?

Unfortunately many of us live in societies where money and rights have become synonymous. That somehow your salary dictates the type of health care you are provided or even the social mobility available to you. Even though the Universal Declaration of Human Rights may not be a perfect document, it is at least a beautiful notion of what could be. But for any of these rights to actually be upheld and respected, racism, sexism, classism, xenophobia, homophobia, and transphobia must no longer exist.

So whether it be through occupation or institutionalised oppression, human rights globally and universally are being ignored. From Aleppo, to Standing Rock, to Palestine and to the growing number of refugees who are just searching for a safer life, I say to you as a sister, as a lover of this earth and as a human being, when one suffers we all suffer. Therefore let us take this day to show the upmost respect and the deepest gratitude to all people of this earth who are risking their lives for life itself.

SOAS University of London

The arrival of more than one million refugees to Europe over the past year has focused a great deal of political attention on the causes and dynamics of displacement and irregular migration in countries and regions of origin. Work by SOAS staff in many of the regions that are generating large numbers of migrants is helping to advance a rights-based agenda for addressing unsafe migration and displacement. In 2016, SOAS, with partners at the International Migration Institute at the University of Oxford and Sahan Research in Nairobi, was awarded a major contract by the European Union Trust Fund for Africa to establish a Research and Evidence Facility (REF) to conduct research on migration and conflict in the Horn of Africa. The REF is examining the conditions that impact on people’s ability to move, or to remain in place, in safety and dignity. What are the factors that have driven more than 100,000 people to flee through Somalia and Djibouti and across the Red Sea to Yemen, a country that is itself beset with insecurity? What potential opportunities and challenges are there for Somali refugees who may be repatriating to Somalia from refugee camps in the region in the coming months and years? How do politics, economics, and rights come together in border regions of the Horn, facilitating or impeding both essential movement and forced displacement? These are a few of the questions that are being considered under this research programme.


Related article:

Laura Hammond, Reader in Development Studies for The Guardian: ‘No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land’

Related programmes:

Development Studies: undergraduate and postgraduate programmes
(especially MSc Migration, Mobility and Development)

MA in Human Rights Law

LLM in Human Rights, Conflicts and Justice

MA Migration and Diaspora Studies

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