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It took two catastrophic world wars for the international community to formulate and accept a Universal Declaration of Human Rights. True, it is not legally binding by itself but it is a document that serves as a solid foundation for international and national laws. But what would it take for there to be a demand for a global reference text upholding the notion of responsibilities, asks Edith Sizoo, the International Coordinator of the Forum on Ethics and Responsibilities (FER) that is building a ‘groundswell’ for the adoption of an International Charter of Human Responsibilities.

We are reposting here a newspaper article after the visit of Edith Sizoo to India participating in different workshops on the activities of the Forum Ethics and Responsibilities, in close collaboration with the Rights and Responsibilities Collective (India). (NG)

Originally published on the 9th of October 2013 on The Hindu: http://www.thehindu.com/todays-pape...

It took two catastrophic world wars for the international community to formulate and accept a Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

True, it is not legally binding by itself but it is a document that serves as a solid foundation for international and national laws. But what would it take for there to be a demand for a global reference text upholding the notion of responsibilities, asks Edith Sizoo, the International Coordinator of the Forum on Ethics and Responsibilities (FER) that is building a ‘groundswell’ for the adoption of an International Charter of Human Responsibilities.

The 21st Century is young but even in the course of a decade, the pace of change and of limitless growth is worrying. “There is anger about what is happening to the planet, about the enormous irresponsibility of states and of multinational corporations. This pressure for scientific advancement as far and fast as possible overpowers a basic sense of accountability,” Ms. Sizoo says.

In light of these new challenges, a charter that defines dos and don’ts and initiates a multi-level process to strengthen a sense of responsibility in societies is long overdue.

For Ms. Sizoo, there is a personal reason why she has devoted her life to this cause. Her childhood memories are not rosy. Rather, they are riddled with vivid images of marching soldiers in knee-high boots, barking orders and being cogs of a dark empire. She was born in Amsterdam at the height of Adolf Hitler’s reign. His philosophy hinged on racism and systematic elimination of those he considered ‘inferior’ and the wake of these horrific events ingrained in Ms. Sizoo’s generation the question of, “how could it all happen”.

Her experiences in India and China have helped her understand other forms of discrimination, especially gender. In fact, during her brief visit to the city, she visited the Poovar Panchayat where she met women who are part of the Jagratha Samithis. “The work this committee for the protection of women and children have done is impressive and if this model is emulated all over the country, it would make a huge difference,” she feels.

Her life till now was to understand the development needs of different communities. She had turned her nose up at the concepts that involved merely transplanting the western development models. Growth is an organic process, she says, and the organisations that are affiliated to the FER are also preoccupied with informing policy-makers in Europe on the kind of aid that is required in different regions.

Training volunteers and fledgling support groups on the background of the country they are going to is another area that FER partners the world over are promoting.

From raising awareness in a neighbourhood about effectively segregating waste to urging states and MNCs to impose self-limitation in the work they do, forms part of the multi-level process they are fuelling

Published on: 13 December 2013
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