By Paul Rozycki
Carrie Booth Walling introduced her new book “Human Rights and Justice for All: Demanding Dignity in the United States and Around the World” at a well-attended launch event on Thursday. August 11, from Totem Books in Flint.
ABC 12 TV’s Dawn Jones conducted the interview and served as host as Walling discussed the book and answered questions from the audience about the importance of human rights in today’s world. Both were introduced by former Flint Mayor Dayne Walling. Carrie Walling said she was inspired to work for the cause of human rights by working for women’s rights and learning about the wars in Yugoslavia and Rwanda, during her undergraduate years in the 1960s. 1990.
She also said that “everyone should have human rights, even those who don’t seem to deserve them.” With that in mind, Walling spoke about his role in Albion College’s prison exchange program, which works in partnership with Jackson Jail, to help incarcerated people.
In her interview, Dawn Jones said that the last chapter of the book, “The Toolkit”, was the most impressive for her. This chapter offers suggestions on how one might engage in meaningful efforts to protect and defend human rights in many situations. Walling said many of his students were instrumental in creating the chapter and offered suggestions for action.
In response to several questions from the audience, Walling linked Flint’s water crisis to a series of human rights abuses around the world, saying “water is a human right. ‘man’ who must be protected worldwide, and that the Flint Water crisis arose from a denial of basic democratic rights.
Others asked how discussing human rights in class changed the beliefs of Walling students and how to balance rights with responsibilities. She said ironically, human rights are thought less of where they are most respected.
“Human rights and justice for all”
In the book, Walling examines the range of human rights around the world, details the many violations that have taken place, reviews leaders in the effort to protect human rights and, most importantly , offers a toolkit with suggestions for those looking to get involved. in the protection of human rights both nationally and internationally.
Although Walling often focuses on the international aspect of human rights abuses and the response to those abuses, she brings the issue back to Flint readers with an important discussion of the Flint water crisis as an example of violation of human rights that mirrors similar violations around the world.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The book begins with a detailed definition of human rights, based largely on the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which was adopted in 1948. The 30 fundamental rights set out in the UDHR are the basic definition of human rights, but they have become the basis for expanding that definition as societies change and respond to those changes.
In the first chapter, Walling emphasizes that human rights must be protected by all governments, whether democratic or authoritarian. She notes that not all democratic governments protect human rights and not all authoritarian governments violate them. Throughout the book, Walling cites individuals who have stood up for human rights, both in the United States and abroad.
Equality and non-discrimination
She argues that equality and non-discrimination should be a fundamental requirement of any nation’s human rights policy and describes the human rights abuse that has taken place with the Uyghurs in China, as well as systematic racial discrimination in the United States, particularly in law enforcement, with the George Floyd case as an example.
The Flint Water crisis and the interdependence of human rights
Walling points out that although there are long lists of human rights, they are all interdependent and interrelated – and cites the Flint water crisis as an example. She says, “The Flint (USA) water crisis shows how the violation of political rights in Flint, Michigan led to the violation of the right to water that threatened the right to life and to health. These rights are compounded by pre-existing racial, economic and environmental disparities, violations of the right to non-discrimination.
The fight for clean water in Flint is therefore directly linked to the fight for democratic governance, fundamental equality and justice. Walling draws parallels with the Yankton Sioux Nation’s struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and internationally with a discussion of ISIS and its use of sexual violence against women.
International crimes such as genocide are examined as the book tackles the cases of Rwanda and Syria and the actions of those nations against their own people. Walling highlights the definitions of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes and outlines actions that can be taken in forums such as the International Criminal Court.
She writes: “The protection of international human rights in an international system designed around state sovereignty poses significant challenges for enforcement, even against international crimes that are so egregious that they are universally prohibited. The commitment to protect populations against genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes has developed alongside the human rights project; but protection standards remain well ahead of practice.
Go beyond the atrocity
While criminal courts can take action to punish those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes, healing a society can be a more difficult process. The next chapter of the book examines the ways in which various nations have attempted to heal after experiencing an atrocity.
Walling examines the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, a similar commission in Greensboro, North Carolina, human rights trials in Argentina and the Srebrenica genocide memorial – all as ways to heal a nation after an atrocity.
Human rights organizations
In the next chapter, Walling reviews some of the key organizations, both within the United Nations and beyond, that have worked to protect human rights around the world. It also highlights some of the people who have played a major role in the defense of human rights in their country and the political strategies that have worked to protect these rights. She says: “In practice, effective human rights change often relies on the interaction of multiple actors, mechanisms and approaches operating at the local, national, regional and international levels.
The Human Rights Toolkit
The chapter that received the most attention during the Totem book event was the toolkit which offers specific guidance on how to work and organize to protect and defend human rights. . The toolkit was prepared by Carrie Walling with the help of several of her students. It describes how individuals can act in two main ways.
First, it describes how an individual can become a better human rights defender, for example by writing opinion pieces/editorials, communicating with elected officials, as well as developing the personal qualities that make an effective human rights defender. human rights.
Second, it describes the ways in which a public demonstration can be organized on campus or elsewhere. The chapter describes how to present a message, reach the media, use social media and use non-traditional methods such as the art of theater to reach the public.
Walling says, “The Human Rights Advocacy Toolkit aims to help readers avoid becoming spectators of injustice by offering tools and strategies for advocating for human rights in their communities. and organizing with others for collaborative change informed by human rights.
Carrie Booth Walling is professor of political science and faculty director of the Gerald R. Ford Institute for Leadership in Public Policy and Service at Albion College. It is his second book. More information is available at www.humanrights.albion.edu
The book is available from Routledge Books, www.routledge.com
EVM Political writer and journalist Paul Rozycki can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.