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Edward Flynn (1977)

As one of the oldest participants on a Kimmage Development course, I convinced myself that I had something of value to share.   Wisdom comes with age and ‘all that stuff’, as our elders back then reminded us.
That is if you believe in Wisdom, as I do. There is a paradox wrapped up in all of this, as you have to attain a certain age before you can claim to be numbered among the wise and even then there are few who would make such a claim.  In my opinion a truly wise person would not make such a boast. At 60 years old I was offered a job in Geneva. At such an age, I doubt if you could refer to it as being head-hunted.  There were few on the list for the job and a short time within which to decide, so I jumped (in a manner of speaking) at the offer.  The aim of the job was doing advocacy work, concerning human rights. This would involve contact with the world of international organisations. The various elements of the job made it sound very attractive.  It was a new post that was being created so there were no established procedures or practices to follow. I could make it up as I went along (again, in a manner of speaking). It provided a great opportunity to be creative and to take initiative. As the job involved a new area of work for me I was prepared to do some learning. Flexibility was one of the concepts floating around back in the 70s, now I was being asked to practice it.
Human Rights, as concept and practice was something that I came across in my college student days. The practice was mostly confined to marches and occupations as we claimed ‘Education as a Right and not a privilege’. There was also a recognition back then that people were entitled to know about their rights and so efforts were made by a variety of community organizations to inform citizens of some of these entitlements.  The concept of human rights is something that has been in existence around the edges of the human community for a very long time. In many cultures and regions of the world there have been efforts made by humans to respond to the terrible situation of poverty and exclusion that some of our sisters and brothers endure and survive.  After the second World War in 1945 the present Human Rights movement came onto the horizon with the emergence of the United Nations.  It has seen phenomenal growth and development since then.  The lives of many have improved as a result of these efforts.  The increased number of Human Rights conventions and other instruments has been in large part a response to the lived experience of people in situations of pain and anguish.  And to this day, human stories of inhumanity have led world leaders to respond in a positive way to the plight of those who are treated unfairly or with discrimination.  It is not the result of any well thought out rational system or ideology but a human reaction to the tragedy caused by crimes against humanity.  There is acceptance now by many people living in democracies that governments are responsible for what happens regarding human rights within the territory of the State.  This is not something new. It has been true for a long time. Yet we see there is a failure by many Governments to implement the provisions of Treaties that they have signed up to.  Failure to act because of a lack of resources or knowledge of the crimes is no longer an acceptable excuse.  My involvement with Kimmage and the Development Studies course has taken me on a long and interesting journey and brought me to the conclusion that it is ‘Time to Protest’ once more.


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