#HumanRightsDay: Choose Peace. Defend Democracy

The Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) joins the rest of the global trade union movement in observing this year’s International Human Rights Day amidst the continuing attacks on the rights of working people worldwide, the assault on dissent by dictators and the erosion of liberty in existing democracies by authoritarian forces, mostly from the Extreme Right. 

Trade unions are in the forefront of the often dangerous and deadly struggle for human rights and democracy. The fight for independent trade unions and democracy are one and the same fight. Trade unions are an essential pillar of democracy, and a bulwark of freedom, and trade unions can only be both strong and free in a democratic environment. 

BWI stands with the working people of the world, as they continue to choose peace as the viable path to defend and deepen democracy, and as we recommit to our democratic principles to pursue our dream of a better future for all working people. 

In line with this, BWI reiterates its strong support for the Ukrainian trade unions as they continue their courageous struggle against Vladimir Putin’s aggression. At the same time that they are defending their national sovereignty and democracy, they are forced to defend their human rights at home from draconian restrictions on trade union rights imposed under the cover of war. 

In the neighboring country of Belarus, BWI continues to support the resistance of trade unions to Alexander Lukashenko despite attempts to silence dissent by dissolving the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions and four other trade union organisations, as well as imprisoning many trade union leaders. 

Likewise, BWI closes ranks with the working people of Myanmar and Hong Kong as they stand up against tyrannical and illegitimate regimes. We call on the United Nations (UN) to once and for all reject the military junta and recognise Mymanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG). We also seek the repudiation of the draconian measures imposed on Hong Kong which have caused the unjust arrests, harassment and imprisonment of many pro-democracy Hong Kong activists, including trade union leaders. 

In the Philippines, BWI continues to add its voice against the state-sanctioned persecution, red-tagging and extrajudicial killing of trade union activists. We call for the swift and complete delivery of justice, and the accountability of all those responsible for these crimes. 

Many other countries are violating the fundamental rights of its citizens. Some regimes, while oppressing all, reserve their harshest treatment for women. Given the extreme, organised and institutionalized terror in Iran, the open resistance of women in Iran is impressive and inspiring.  

As trade unionists and workers, we stand with all the those who fight for freedom, democracy and justice; and with all those who choose peace to turn the tide of brutality, fear and despair. Peace without democracy is simply tyranny. And without functioning democracies, the will of the many will succumb that of the few rich and powerful. Without either, human rights will continue to be in peril. 

Only through peace can workers create conditions to secure social progress and a sustainable global economy. And only through democracy can workers achieve the social justice they need to be free, and for everyone regardless of gender, class, origin or religious belief to fully enjoy human rights. 

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