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Leaders Affirm Original Meaning of Universal Human Rights at the UN


New York, United States – Commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on November 16 and 17 at the United Nations, over 200 international politicians, UN diplomats, and civil society leaders from more than 40 countries addressed the need to restore the original understanding of human rights as stated in the UDHR. The conference titled “Transatlantic Summit V” focused on the theme “Affirming Universal Human Rights – Uniting Cultures for Life, Family and Freedom.” All those gathered were committed to reinforcing the principle of universal, individual human rights, based in nature, with deep roots in world religions and philosophical traditions. 

The organizer, Political Network for Values (PNfV), was represented by its chair, Mr. Jose Antonio Kast, and Lola Velarde, executive director of PNfV Spain. The Mission of Guatemala to the UN co-sponsored the event. To begin the day, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, UN ambassador of the Holy See, offered remarks during mass at the Church of the Holy Family. Guatemala’s Foreign Minister Mario Bucaro offered opening remarks supporting the right to life, liberty and safety for everyone, from conception to old age.

Mr. Kast recalled that the United Nations and the UDHR were created to protect against the totalitarianism that resulted in the horror and devastation of two World Wars. He warned that cancel culture today is a totalitarianism that erodes the base of the UDHR, the unalienable rights and integrity of a person. He stated, “We are here to bring forth, in its original sense, the agreement of 1948. We must return to the human person and, from there, ensure their fundamental rights. It is precisely here, at the United Nations, that our voice needs to be heard. We assert the timeless and transcendent principles that inspired the Universal Declaration of Human Rights… It is our duty to remind those who forget it or want to distort the original meaning of the UDHR.”

Brett Schaefer, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said that human rights activists have reinterpreted UDHR and asserted 13,000 new rights. Though perhaps well meaning, these new rights are not universal nor consistent with the cultures, traditions, and values of all countries and peoples. For instance, the new right to freedom from “hate speech” drastically limits the fundamental rights of freedom of expression, thought, belief, religion and assembly. Championing the right to freedom from “hate speech” gives license to powers within the UN and authoritarian, repressive governments to practice censorship. Schaefer added, “Pursuing new, increasingly esoteric rights claims while ignoring the fact that much of the world’s population has yet to enjoy the rights laid out in the Universal Declaration does a huge disservice to the billions of people who are too fearful to speak their opinions, protest their government, or practice their religion.”

Adam Kavecsanszki, president of Foundation for Civic Hungary, reminded everyone how easily authoritarian systems can take away the people’s freedoms, as his country experienced under communism. During communist rule, the birth rate plummeted, freedoms disappeared, and misery proliferated. However, Prime Minister Victor Orban’s policies, bolstering Christianity and the family, have resulted in a significant up-tick for marriage and birth, a dramatic decline in abortions, and greater overall well-being.

Ito Bisonó, minister of industry and commerce of the Dominican Republic, said that major threats such as lack of rule of law and out-of-control immigration can be countered by reclaiming the foundation of all human rights, the right to life and the family. He said we must “reaffirm the principles that gave rise to the UDHR in the face of the threats that today particularly affect the life, freedom and dignity of individuals.”

Samuel George, member of Parliament of Ghana, pointed out that the UDHR upholds the protection of the family based on marriage between a man and a woman, the protection of motherhood and childhood, the right of parents’ choice in their children’s education, freedom of thought, conscience, religion and expression. Although clearly delineated at the formation of the UN, international organizations are trampling on these fundamental rights.

Dr. Jan Figel, former EU special envoy for freedom of religion or belief, Slovakia, spoke about the many attacks on freedom of religion around the world. He pointed out that freedom of thought, conscience, religion, opinion and expression, as stated in Article 18 and 19 of the UNDH, are pivotal for the very continuation of humanity. Poignantly, he stated, “Without freedom of conscience we are no longer human beings.”

Margarita de la Pisa, member of the European Parliament, made the correlation that these fundamental and pro-family rights are directly related to optimal human development. She explained, “Defending life, for example, means a political commitment to prosperity.”

Hafid El-Hachimi, an official of the Independent Permanent Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, warned that as families are the fundamental unit for cultural and economic development of society, any redefinition of the family will be disastrous for our sustainable future.

In her power point, Sharon Slater, president of Family Watch International, displayed a plethora of examples of blatant indoctrination of gender ideology and sexualization of children carried out by powerful international organizations through, for instance, the worldwide promotion of Comprehensive Sexual Education. Many of these organizations, documents and programs proclaim children’s “sexual rights” starting from a young age; purposely undermine parental rights and inherent responsibilities to their children; and disparage religious perspectives.

Valerie Huber, founder of the Institute for Women’s Health, spoke of the encouraging development of the Geneva Consensus Declaration signed by 36 member states. The declaration promotes women’s authentic and holistic health, including more than just fertility well-being. It promotes women’s dignity and thriving around the world and seeks to protect the sovereign right of nations to support their own core values through national policy and legislation. She gave several examples of programs that promote women’s health, empower parents to educate their children about their values, and strengthen the family to uphold its inherent rights.

There were many other excellent speakers as well. The list of partners responsible for this event included: The Heritage Foundation, Center for Fundamental Rights, Foundation for a Civic Hungary, Global Center for Human Rights, International Centre on Sexual Exploitation, Family Watch International, C-Fam, Alliance Defending Freedom International, The Institute for Women’s Health, International Organization for the Family, and Talenting Group.

The conference provided a rich opportunity for information gathering and networking. The high level content and comradery of this event have undoubtedly reinvigorated the effort to reclaim, uphold, and promote the wisdom of UDHR and the founding principles of the United Nations.


By Lynn R. Walsh, Director, Office of the Family, UPF-International
November 17, 2023


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