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Human Rights Day Observed in Prague

Prague, Czech Republic - The Czech UPF chapter celebrated the Human Rights Day in Prague on Dec. 10, 2013 by convening a conference followed by a panel discussion. The conference took place in the American Center in Prague and was organized together with the Civic Institute as a partner organization. Thirty people participated in a beautiful conference hall of the American Center.

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There were three panels, with two speakers each.

In the first panel the topic was "Human rights – their origin and value." Dr. Juraj Lajda, secretary general of UPF-Czech Republic, outlined the basic ideas and conclusions of the Vienna Declaration and Action Plan accepted 20 years ago in 1993. This document played a significant role in the new history of the world, especially after the end of the cold war. As for the origin of human rights, the speaker pointed out a very simple fact that it is the family where we have the first and primary environment where we can learn about human rights. It is the family where we can learn to respect others as well as sympathy and solidarity with our neighbors. This point is very important for parents to understand.

The second speaker, Professor Harald Scheu from the Faculty of Law of Charles University in Prague, spoke about "Faith in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after 65 years.“ He said that the education and faith in human rights are closely interconnected. Various thought systems and philosophies should be projected into human rights. He also mentioned that in the American constitution searching for happiness is considered to be an inalienable right.

The second panel focused on "Human Rights in politics and the economy." Dr. Roman Joch, director of the Civic Institute, spoke about "What Are Human Rights and How Can We Recognize Them?“ He said that everybody can agree that human rights are good. Does it mean, however that the more human rights we have the better it is for society? Undoubtedly not. We have to recognize the quality of human rights. Human rights are given by our nature. We have natural rights and social rights, which are based on consensus in the society. There is a difference between them.

The next speaker Dr. Karel Šimka, a judge from the Supreme Executive Court, spoke about the "Regulation of Economics as an Invidious Danger for the Human Rights.“ As a judge he introduced many examples about how the court has to decide in concrete cases. Often it is not easy because there are many opinions and ideologies behind an issue. According to him the concept of human rights is a Western concept dating back perhaps 250 years, although people pretend that human rights are universal and beyond cultures. Human beings are the only beings that reflect on their own existence and thus are the subject of the rights, not the object.

"Human Rights in the Social Context“ was the theme of the last panel. Mr. Mark Martin, director of the Amnesty International in the Czech Republic, presented the most distinct cases of the violation of human rights worldwide. Even though there is a High Commissioner for Human Rights and many NGOs promoting human rights, still there are many human rights violations in the world, and much work remains to be done.

The final speaker, Dr. Jan Kust, author of the book The Supreme Court in the USA, spoke about the history of slavery in the USA. He explained in detail the historical process which ensured in the abollition of slavery. Many participatnts appreciated his speech because it was very clear and inspiring.

Several participants expressed the opinion that this was the best UPF conference in this year. The presentations were of a high quality, had deep content, each speaker was an expert in his field and all of them were able to communicate valuable inforrmation and opinions. Each speaker represented some opinion stream in the society.

In the end, some speakers themselves expressed gratitude that they could participate and address this conference organized by UPF in cooperation with the Civic Institute. The very dignified enviroment of the American Center and the good cooperation and support of their staff contributed much to its success.


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