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Jamaica joins the international community in commemorating Human Rights Day 2017. This year, Human Rights Day marks the beginning of a year-long campaign celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. The Declaration recognizes the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family, regardless of race, colour, creed, sex, or national origin. The principles enshrined in that Declaration are as relevant today as when they were adopted almost seventy years ago.

This year’s theme, Stand up for Human Rights, is a poignant reminder that the promotion and protection of human rights is a shared responsibility involving government, the private sector and civil society, including ordinary citizens. This means that we all have a duty and an obligation to stand up for and defend human rights in the workplace, at school, on the streets and in the public places.

Protection of the rights of all citizens and particularly the most vulnerable in our society – our children, women and persons living with disabilities – remains a priority for the Government. Parliament is currently reviewing the Child Care and Protection Act (CCPA), and to improve the efficiency of the child protection system, the Child Development Agency (CDA) and the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR) have been merged to create the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA). The new entity should be more responsive to the needs, security and well-being of our children, while addressing the concerns of parents and families. Increased governmental support is also being provided to the National Parenting Support Commission.

We remain steadfast in our commitment to gender equality and empowerment and the elimination of violence against women. Mainstreaming of gender issues, as envisioned by the National Policy on Gender Equity, is underway to ensure a holistic governmental approach to the empowerment of women. Furthermore, the National Strategic Action Plan to Eliminate Gender-Based Violence is a comprehensive multi-sectoral plan aimed at addressing the key issues and challenges of gender-based violence as it relates to victims, perpetrators, and witnesses of acts of violence. Its recent launch marks a new phase in our efforts to end violence against women and girls. Efforts to fulfil our obligations towards persons with disabilities are ongoing and the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) remains a top priority. A media campaign was recently launched to raise public awareness not only of the rights of persons living with disabilities, but also their tremendous potential.

We all have a part to play in promoting equality, justice and freedom for all, in the pursuit of a more peaceful, just and prosperous world. As we commemorate Human Rights Day 2017, we urge all Jamaicans to heed the call to stand up for the human rights of all persons, mindful that when anyone’s human rights are denied, everyone’s rights are undermined.

Let each of us play our part in giving effect to the opening words of the Universal Declaration regarding “the recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.

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