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Joshua Cooper – November 2012


Dr. Joshua Cooper – November 2012

By Karen Son

On November 26 the Political Science Department’s new student-directed Human Rights Organization hosted Dr. Joshua Cooper. Dr. Cooper, the current Director for the Hawaii Institute of Human Rights, has long been involved with our BYU-Hawaii students, helping them secure internship and educational opportunities. For many years Dr. Cooper has devoted himself to promoting and encouraging human rights and fundamental freedoms throughout the world. On Monday he visited us again, generously taking time to visit our campus, enlighten us about the “Universal Declaration on Human Rights,” and inform us how we can help secure fundamental freedoms for all human beings. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was established as a common standard for all human beings, championing the ideal that each person is equal and all should have access to fundamental human rights and freedoms. As a normative, universal document the Declaration provides general guidelines on how humanity can come together and how governments can assist in accomplishing human rights for all. It was originally adopted by the United Nation General Assembly in 1948. After the tragedies of the Second World War, Assembly members gathered under the theme of “Never Again,” a reference to the Holocaust and a pledge to intervene before any such tragedy or conflicts could again mar world history. Dr. Cooper emphasized the importance of the principle of self-determination. The principle of self-determination defines the ability of governments and people to determine their own political destinies and pursue their economic, social, and cultural developments to the full potential. He discussed several other important instruments and documents such as the Convention on Genocide, The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, The Convention on Rights of the Child, and The Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. These documents protect people when one’s access to fundamental freedoms and rights is limited or taken away. In conclusion, Dr. Cooper narrowed the history and the principle of human rights down to three major elements: ideas, initiatives, and institutions. The human rights movement is all about creating ideas of how to make the world better for everybody. How humans think about human rights and new ways to solve problems represent important beginning steps. When ideas have been suggested and initiatives to accomplish have arisen, all that remains is to find institutions that can implement them. When all human beings work on this process together as a large human family, this world will ensure fundamental rights and freedoms for all and make it a better place for everyone.