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Humanists Launch Effort on Human Rights Anniversary; Issue Statement to Be Signed by Prominent Thinkers and Activists

December 10, 2008

For Immediate Release - Contact Fred Edwords at (202) 238-9088
fedwords@americanhumanist.org - www.americanhumanist.org

(Washington, D.C.) On this the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the American Humanist Association is launching its campaign to gather signatures for the organization's Resolution on Global Community and International Affairs. The first individuals being approached are the living notable signers of Humanist Manifesto III--a list that included 22 Nobel laureates in 2003 as well as filmmaker Oliver Stone, scientists Richard Dawkins and Edward O. Wilson, social critic Katha Pollitt, and environmentalist Lester R. Brown. (Go to http://www.americanhumanist.org/3/HMsigners.htm for the complete list.) The effort will then expand to other Nobelists and prominent individuals. The goal is to present the document and its list of signers to Barack Obama after his inauguration as president of the United States.  
 
The pre-released document is available online at http://www.americanhumanist.org/global.php and may be freely quoted and reproduced.
 
The Resolution on Global Community and International Affairs incorporates the ideals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, recognizing that one common humanity is critical in a global society—a common humanity based on rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled and a system of universal ethics that apply fully and equally to all peoples. But the resolution also states that humanist values are a necessary foundation for resolving the myriad challenges presented by the current state of international affairs.   

“Humanist values and the values embraced by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are strikingly similar,” said Carl Coon, former U.S. ambassador to Nepal and current vice president of the American Humanist Association.

“Both recognize a shared humanity and the inherent rights of all peoples. But our resolution goes further in outlining why humanist values are instrumental for securing the rights enumerated--because we reject cultural relativism when it minimizes our shared humanity, and because of the central importance of humanism's pillars of reason, compassion, and human dignity.”

The resolution affirms the American Humanist Association’s support for multilateral institutions such as the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, and the World Bank Group, along with their global framework for nations and their peoples to interact with each other. It also supports the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the minimum standard to which nations should strive when guaranteeing the rights of citizens. And it underlines the importance of avoiding the use and distortion of creeds, beliefs, ideologies, and worldviews as a justification for violence or the threat of violence in pursuit of goals.

“Humanists decry any special status for religion as a subject which cannot be criticized or critiqued,” added Mel Lipman, a human rights attorney and president of the American Humanist Association. “We need to make sure the global community recognizes the danger of violent absolutist value systems, even if they take the form of popular religions. And we need to challenge any attempts by the global community to    recognize so-called blasphemy laws, lest we justify a basis for suppression of opinion and freedom of conscience. In order to achieve a healthy global society, all social systems—religion included—must be subject to critical assessment.” 
 
Dr. Ana Lita, director of the Appignani Bioethics Center of the American Humanist Association concluded by noting, "This resolution is not only significant in itself, it lays the groundwork for addressing a wide range of other international concerns. By recognizing the importance of working through 'a mix of innovative technology, intensive planning, and coordinated global efforts,' it is both supportive of biotechnology and other developments while recognizing the need for a unified humanity to manage them rationally and morally."  

The UDHR was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948, in Paris. It is the first document in which all nations endorse a set of universal rights recognized as the entitlement of all people. 

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The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.

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