Human rights essay contest for high school students

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Seventy-five years ago Richard Kemper was killed in World War II.

Along with other allied soldiers he was not just fighting to defend his country.  He and they were also fighting to defeat fascism and create a just world order.  And thankfully as a result of their sacrifices fascism was defeated, the United Nations was created, and  the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights documents specifying those things everyone should be entitled were drafted, signed, and ratified. 

Today the Kemper Human Rights Education Foundation sponsors human rights essay contests for high school students. In 2015 Michael Tashash, a student at Norwalk’s Brien McMahon High School won second prize in one of its contests.

This year, the 20th year running of the contest for students in the U.S. the KHREF is offering a first prize of $1000 and a second prize of $500 to the students judged to have written the best answers to the following question:

Confronted with the coronavirus pandemic, countries around the world are making policy changes that affect human rights.  How well is the United States meeting the goals of limiting the spread of the virus and preserving human rights?  If there is a single issue that stands out above all the others, feel free to focus on that issue.  In answering this question, please consider the following quote from COVID-19 and Human Rights, a document published by the United Nations in April of this year: “Against a backdrop of rising ethno-nationalism, populism, authoritarianism and pushback against human rights in some countries, the crisis can provide a pretext to adopt repressive measures for purposes unrelated to the pandemic. The instability and fear that the pandemic engenders is exacerbating existing human rights concerns, such as discrimination against certain groups, hate speech, xenophobia, attacks and forced returns of refugees and asylum-seekers, mistreatment of migrants, and sexual and gender-based violence, as well as limited access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.”

The deadline for submissions is Dec. 10 (Human Rights Day).

More information about KHREF, the essays of past winners, and a downloadable flyer describing the contest’s criteria and where and how to  submit essays may be found at khref.org.

Paul Cantor

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