Pursuing Human Rights

Open letter originally published in the Global Ducks Newsletter distributed by the UO Alumni Association.

Many people seem to have the idea that youth are only capable of playing a secondary role when it comes to human rights.

However, my experience during spring break as one of seven Oxford Consortium Human Rights Fellows from the UO has convinced me otherwise. It showed me that we can have an active voice in denouncing human rights violations, changed my understanding of what it means to be human, and offered many opportunities to help others.

Before the trip, we discussed readings related not only to human rights practices but also to the morality behind studies such as the genocide in Rwanda and the civil war in Syria. We also discussed controversial nuances important for understanding UN sanctions.

By discussing the practices and the philosophies that initiate conflicts around the world, I believe that we became critical thinkers while remaining positive as individuals. This is the result of learning to reflect creatively on ways to solve, and possibly, avoid conflicts through empathy, compassion, and respect for human rights.

I am a Brazilian, and my first experience with human rights practices occurred in 2015. I was a youth delegate for the Children and Youth Forum during the third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction.

I had the privilege of meeting the former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who emphasized the importance of involving youth in discussions about local and global issues.

Before that, I had the opportunity to practice applying the relationship between new media and human rights with other high school students in a summer program at Yale University. We prototyped a campaign using virtual reality media to encourage empathy for the refugee crisis in the Middle East.

Empathy has also allowed me to think of diplomacy critically. In fact, the common understanding of moral diplomacy strategies seems strictly divided between good and evil, the reasonable and the irrational, saints and demons.

In my opinion, our ability to realize human potential depends on developing a solid comprehension of how culture, emotions, and attitudes can unite us toward a more collaborative worldview.

I practice this at the University of Oregon as a member of the UO’s International Cultural Service Program, which offered me a full-tuition scholarship to come to Oregon. In providing the Eugene-Springfield and surrounding communities with a cross-cultural exchange, I strive to share my learning experience as I discover new ideas, values, interests, and problems that are either different from or similar to those in Brazil.

I have no doubt that one of the most profoundly life-changing experiences during the Oxford workshop happened only because of the knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm that each fellow brought to the group. I came away believing that our future depends on developing an essential skill: the ability to evaluate what it means to identify our rights and duties in an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world.