Opinion

Honor Human Rights Day By Protecting The Rohingya

Michael Posner

By Michael Posner

By Michael Posner

Seventy-two years ago, today, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Just three years after the end of World War II, Eleanor Roosevelt led the effort to produce this document, which broke new ground in two ways. First, it universalized human rights, meaning that it affirmed that everyone is born with core rights. Rights are not bestowed by governments. Second, its internationalized rights, adding these issues to the global diplomatic agenda and encouraging governments to act collectively wherever gross abuses are occurring. Roosevelt called the Universal Declaration a “Magna Carta for all mankind.” But she warned that implementing these rights globally would be daunting, especially in distant places, beyond public attention and international scrutiny. 

Perhaps nowhere on earth has this gap between theory and practice been more painful in recent years than in the mistreatment of the Rohingya, an ethnic and Muslim minority in Myanmar. Beginning decades ago, the government of Myanmar, formerly Burma, began targeting these people. More recently, its weaponized Facebook to spread disinformation about the Rohingya in Rakhine State where most were living.

In 2016 and 2017, in response to ragtag Rohingya militants, the Myanmar military and their proxies began attacking Rohingya civilians, raping women, and burning down thousands of homes. In 2018, a United Nations human rights report classified the orchestrated campaign of violence a genocide. Desperate to escape these attacks, more than 700,000 Rohingya fled to relative safety in neighboring Bangladesh. The Bangladeshi government allowed them to enter, for which it deserves great credit, but then packed them into massive and unsustainable refugee camps, for which it does not.

Read the full Forbes article.
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Michael Posner is a Professor of Business and Society and Director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.