Marisa Ugarte (left), Anne Hoiberg and Dilkhwaz Ahmed read from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Photo by Chris Jennewein

In an divisive era when “globalist” has become an epithet, three San Diego activists gathered at the United Nations Building in Balboa Park Monday to mark the 70th anniversary of one of the singular global agreements of the past century.

The activists, all women, were celebrating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations at the urging of a woman — First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The U.N. General Assembly voted on Dec. 10, 1948, to adopt the declaration, parts of which are now incorporated in numerous international treaties, national constitutions and other laws.

Anne Hoiberg said the group has celebrated the anniversary for the past 20 years. This year’s recognition also included a weekend outreach program at the popular Whistle Stop Bar in South Park.

“We’ve been carrying the torch,” said Hoiberg, who is president of the International Museum of Human Rights in San Diego. “What’s really sad to me is that I love the United Nations and I just wish it could become effective.”

Hoiberg was joined by Marisa Ugarte, executive director of the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition, which fights human trafficking; and Dilkhwaz Ahmed, executive director of License to Freedom, which addresses domestic abuse in the refugee and immigrant communities.

While standing in front of U.S. and U.N. flags, the women read three of the 30 articles in the declaration. They explained that the three chosen have special significance for San Diego because of the influx of Central American refugees, the Trump administration’s efforts to separate families, and prevalence of human smuggling.

The text of the three articles they read is:

  • Article 4 — No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
  • Article 5 — No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
  • Article 25 — (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

There was, of course, a major celebration at U.N. headquarters in New York, and at a U.N.-sponsored conference on immigration in Morocco. But San Diego did its part.

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