On 10 December 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1950, the Assembly passed resolution 423 (V), inviting all States and interested organizations to observe 10 December of each year as Human Rights Day. It is the most translated document in the world, being available in more than 500 languages.
This year the UN calls on everyone to stand up for equality, justice and human dignity.
Human rights are relevant to all of us, every day and no matter where we are in the world. In the maritime environment this is no different. Anyone who has any connection with the sea, be it as a place of work, a means of travel or the only route available to flee from persecution and unjust treatment, is entitled to have their human rights respected in exactly the same way.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights empowers us all and we call on everyone to make a personal commitment to make the next year one in which they seek to make a difference. All of us can take action in our daily lives to uphold the rights that protect us all and call out those who fail to live up to their responsibilities as citizens of the world.
Defending maritime human rights
Since 3 April 2014, our charity has been explicitly standing up for human rights in the maritime environment. We have been highlighting abuses, recording cases of missing seafarers and fishers at sea, developing international guidance on important subject areas, delivering pertinent news stories and building social media platforms allowing us to disseminate our core message and founding principle that “Human rights apply at sea as equally as they do on land“ while all the time challenging abuse at sea.
We continually strive for greater international visibility and dissemination throughout the maritime environment of those four fundamental words: “Human Rights at Sea“, howsoever they are interpreted and disseminated.
An initiative that grew
To consider that in late 2013 when we first conceived the idea of creating such an initiative that there was no international advocacy platform explicitly dealing with this issue in the maritime space seems incredulous, but true.
Today, those four words continue to become regularly used in global conversations, policy, government and academic documents, within maritime professional and social circles, and by media platforms worldwide.
Increasingly, businesses are engaging more with human rights in the business context but far more needs to be done. A ‘human-rights compliant’ supply chain is something that all businesses should strive for particularly given that the majority of goods travel by sea. We call on businesses across the globe to make this a priority for 2018.
Every positive action, verbal comment, written supporting policy, individual or corporate initiative, report of abuse or constructive dialogue aimed at highlighting the need and want to uphold human rights as fundamental rights for all persons worldwide, is a step forwards.
The ongoing challenges
In the maritime environment and specifically the commercial maritime space, there remains a huge amount of work to be done in educating persons, promoting the respect for human rights, promoting the acceptance of equality, ending impunity and achieving effective remedies for abuses perpetrated at sea.
Unfortunately, our greatest challenges and obstacles continue to stem from the background of commercial resistance to change from individuals, organisations and associations. This is often based upon ingrained institutional prejudices and the commercial drive for profit over people.
‘Human Rights’ is not a toxic subject, rather it is often conveniently portrayed as such. If such a negative label is allowed to continue to be portrayed without challenge it will continue to be cited as a subject not to be engaged with, to be avoided and consequently abuses at sea will continue to go unrecorded and without effective remedy.
As we develop, our charity wants to see greater public and private engagement from the global business community in developing individual approaches to, and interpretations of ‘Human Rights at Sea’.
10th December 2017