Global Human Rights Defence
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Global Human Rights Defence (GHRD) is an international human rights Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) working with and for minorities. GHRD specifically addresses those areas and populations of the world where severe and extensive human rights violations of certain ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities have taken place for long periods, and where structural help and global attention of the international media have proven to be absent or insufficient.
GHRD conducts its work via three pillars:
- Human rights reporting: done by local observers
- Humanitarian aid: aimed at victims of human rights violations
- Human rights education: in South Asia, Netherlands and Europe
GHRD concentrates on the human rights of minority groups:
- that are dominated by social, economical and political power;
- that have been deprived of effective protection against gross and systematic violations;
- that have been deprived of access to resources simply because of their identity and beliefs.
"Basic aims of the United Nations, as proclaimed in the Charter, is to promote and encourage respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion,[...] emphasizing that the constant promotion and realization of the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, as an integral part of the development of society as a whole and within a democratic framework based on the rule of law, would contribute to the strengthening of friendship and cooperation among peoples and States" General Assembly Resolution 47/135, 18 December 1992.
GHRD is integrally distinctive from other organisations in various ways. For one, it focuses on those issues and areas where people have been deprived of their rights without their cases being properly addressed by both governments and authorities. GHRD is the first organisation in The Hague (The Netherlands) to address specifically the human rights of minorities. Outside The Hague, GHRD is distinctive because of its permanent presence of local observers, who produce genuine information and reports of distinctive quality, due to their profound knowledge of the local humanitarian situation.
Mission and objective
It is the mission of GHRD to actively promote human rights, especially minority rights (in accordance with the UN Declaration on Rights of Minorities), as well as to form a well-structured international platform to inform, influence and demand efforts from established organizations and relevant authorities.
GHRD has formulated the following objectives in order to fulfil its mission:
- To fight against the violation of human rights of minority groups, particularly in those areas and populations where structural help or global attention of the world has not been given;
- To provide refugee centre assistance and humanitarian aid to those who lack elementary basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter and proper sanitary conditions;
- To develop, stimulate and enhance human rights awareness in a national and international perspective, through means of education.
GHRD was officially founded after The Hague 2003 International Conference on Human Rights, which was sub-themed Human Rights of Refugees and Victims of Ethnic and Religious Violence. At the end of the conference a gap in the human rights work was spotted: human rights of minorities. The establishment of GHRD was supported by a broad spectrum of over a 150 selected participants of national and international human rights organisations from all over the world. The memorandum of association, which was agreed upon unanimously and signed by all participating parties, provides the structure of this international organisation.
At the time of its establishment, the Board was led by Sradhanand Sital who still is the chairman of the organisation. Ranjeev Gowri has volunteered during the congress and was taken on board of the new project as well. When it was first established, GHRD had no official office and worked solely on a voluntary basis. Meetings were held at the founders’ living-rooms and activities were conducted by a small group of dedicated people. A few months after the founding of GHRD, Nizaad Bissumbhar comes across the organisation at an event and immediately joins the cause. Bissumbhar and Gowri soon become active members of GHRD. In September 2005, the organisation opened its head-office in The Hague at Javastraat and employed the first paid staff. In the building, GHRD was neighbour of United Network of Young Peacebuilders (UNOY) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Also in 2005, GHRD promoted a four-day congress at the City Hall of the Hague. The congress was titled GHRD reaches for the future and brought together some 120 experts in the field of human rights. Amongst the speakers were Dutch Human Rights Ambassador Mr. P. de Klerk, and the Mayor of The Hague Mr. W. Deetman.
In 2006 Bissumbhar and Gowri took the respective positions as Secretary and Treasurer of the Board. The founders had already some contacts in South-Asia and it was easier to start acting in the region. Moreover, the South-Asia region fulfilled the mission/vision of GHRD, as the violations of human rights of minorities did not hit the headlines nor were they on top of the political agenda.
GHRD head-office is based on the Laan van Meedervoort in peace capital The Hague, South Holland, where all operations from the region are coordinated. At the time of its establishment, GHRD initially opened its offices in India, and Bangladesh. Nepal and Sri Lanka followed in 2004. Except Sri Lanka, all the offices are still active. The Sri Lanka’s office had to be closed after the Tsunami on December 2004. After the disaster, a great number of NGOs started working in the country and employing local human rights experts. As a small organisation, GHRD was not able to top the salaries being paid to the locals and had to abandon the country.
In 2006, GHRD opened officially the Bhutan Chapter. GHRD had been working with the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal from the start. The observer based in Kathmandu worked closely with the seven refugee camps sponsored by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). In the same year, in India the Women’s Wing was launched. However, due to a lack of human resources, the division was never fully activated. GHRD has also contacts spread around Malaysia and Indonesia and is currently studying the possibility of opening an office in Pakistan. In July 2007, GHRD signed a letter of intent for exchange of information with the African foundation Bajito Onda Africa.
In 2006, GHRD decided to become more active in Europe and initiated a cycle of seminars on migrants in Europe and human rights. The European Seminars programme has as a basic principle the promotion of equality, unity and understanding among diverse cultures, ethnicities and religions of the world, and it seeks to create opportunities regarding peace and prosperity for mankind. Consequently, the topics tackle contemporary challenges, which cause racial enmity, social unrest and overt conflicts in all levels of society.
- In 2006
- The Hague: Human Rights Education and Social Engagement.
- Berlin: Human Rights Education and Social Engagement—under the All Equal—All Different Campaign of the Council of Europe.
- In 2007
- Turin: Intercultural Forum on Rights of Migration and Asylum (IN.F.O.R.M.A.)—under the All Different—All Equal Campaign of the Council of Europe.
- In 2008
Fight Modern Slavery
In 2011, GHRD campaigned against modern slavery - existing today in forms: from trafficking for the sex trade, to bonded labour, child labour, caste discrimination, and sexual exploitation. A series of activism events included: rallies, door to door campaigns, information sessions, street dramas, and screenings of the GHRD documentary SOLD: A Child Trafficked. The documentary focuses specially on trafficking of girls from Nepal.
Stop the Gang Rapes Campaign
In 2007 GHRD started its first campaign. The initiative focused on the gang rapes that victimised Bangladeshi women and young girls. The main objective of the campaign was to raise awareness to the issue. The campaign was based in the Netherlands and it spread naturally via the internet to other European countries and even reached the USA. The campaigners used social utilities such as MySpace and Facebook to promote the message.
The campaign was also promoted via its ambassadors: Scottish band Brand New Deja Vu, DJ Paul Jay and Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin. GHRD made available petitions in several languages asking the Bangladeshi government to take necessary actions. The campaign was launched on 16 June 2007 with a Beach Benefit Concert at Scheveningen (Netherlands). Performances were made by Brand New Deja Vu, DJ Paul Jay, Valerius and Little Things That Kill.
- The Tribune, Chandigarh, India, Wednesday, March 28, 2007, Hindu groups launch ‘save Ram Sethu’ campaign