Celebrating International Human Rights Day at UC

On December 9, 2010, the University of Cambodia (UC) and the European Union (EU) co-hosted International Human Rights Day. Distinguished guests in the public and non-public sector attended the ceremony, including
many UC students and faculty members.

Each year on December 10th, Human Rights Day is celebrated across the globe. The theme for this year is human rights defenders who act to end discrimination. This also is the 62nd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 60th anniversary of Human Rights Day. This is the first time the University of Cambodia and the European Union have jointly organized an event around human rights.

Mr. Peter Tan Keo, UC Vice President for Strategy, Development and International Cooperation, provided some insightful opening remarks on the meaning of Human Rights Day from a historical perspective. He went on to state that, “As a nation, we must ensure that basic rights, or what experts call ‘The Right to Development,’ are granted to the most vulnerable populations, living on the edge of marginalization. These rights include basic education, literacy, food, potable water, electricity, technology and employment.”

H.E. Mr. Rafael Dochao Moreno, Charge d’Affaires of the EU Delegation to Cambodia, honed in on the theme for Human Rights Day 2010: human rights defenders who act to end discrimination. He stressed that it is the responsibility of all people to defend human rights, especially in Cambodia, and more especially among the younger generation of leaders.

In his keynote address, H.E. Mr. Christian Connan, French Ambassador and the EU Presidency Representative in Cambodia, underscored the fundamental principles of human rights, and reminded everyone of the importance of respecting these principles for all mankind.

This was followed by brief presentations by five UC undergraduate students from the Colleges of Law, Management and Social Sciences on what they considered to be important about human rights; these presentations were thoughtful and thought-provoking, yet delivered with humour when appropriate.

H.E. Dr. Kao Kim Hourn, UC President and Adviser to Samdech Techo Prime Minister, wrapped up the session. In his closing remarks, which conveyed an array of important messages, Dr. Kao noted that, “The University of Cambodia understands the value of knowledge sharing and of human capital investment especially among our youth…we understand the value of promoting education as a vehicle for achieving equality and transformation in Cambodia.” Thereafter, the five student presenters were each given gifts, including umbrellas, in recognition of their efforts.

Human Rights Day, to be certain, acknowledges the achievements of people working hard to support this agenda around the world. It also aims to inspire a new generation of leaders and thinkers to take action in order to build a more just and peaceful society.

A common message was sent from all speakers. That message was the importance of recognizing that education is a basic human right. It can serve as a catalyst for poverty reduction, economic growth, and upward social mobility, and, on many occasions, has proven to narrow divides across the spectrum. For that reason, we must continue to invest a great deal more in human rights and education, pushing for onward and upward growth and development in Cambodia and throughout the world.

Editor’s Note:


The Holiday Season is more than just celebrating bright lights, Christmas trees, and gift exchanges. It reminds me of the importance of giving back and helping those lacking the wherewithal to help themselves. Societies grow stronger with time because people come together to make a difference in the lives those less fortunate. So many people continue to live in abject poverty, and, as a member of the University of Cambodia, it’s important for me to acknowledge the role this institution plays in shaping our society. We take on these roles to help shape young minds, teaching them moral standards, ethics and the importance of investing a small bit today because that may impact many lives tomorrow. It reminds me about the commitment I share in educating young people to become the best they can be, to take on roles that will contribute to positive social changes. It reminds me that those who have the power to change the status quo should do their part in making the world a better place. Small contributions tend to add up to large significant results. I am reminded of the old proverb, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” And while I am reminded this Holiday Season about the joy of life, let me also encourage you to thank those who have given so much to make us who we are today. I wish everyone a prosperous and joyful 2011. May we continue to make positive social changes.

Seng-Dao Keo
Editor, The UC Bulletin