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Nobel Prize laureate Matviychuk: “Human rights are not won once and for all. They depend on our choices every day”

Ukrainian human rights activist, Nobel laureate, and head of the Center for Civil Liberties Oleksandra Matviychuk stressed the fragility of freedom in the contemporary West.
Oleksandra Matviychuk

The contemporary generation, which inherited democracy from parents, perceives it for granted rather than something that depends on everyday choices, which can disappear and, therefore, should be actively defended, Matviychuk emphasized in her article for Ukrainian media.

When the world order based on the UN Charter and international law is collapsing before our eyes, the problem is not only that in authoritarian countries, the space of freedom has narrowed to the level of a prison cell, Matviychuk wrote. The problem is that even in developed democracies, forces that question the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are gaining weight.

There are reasons for this. The generations that survived the Second World War were replaced by others. They inherited democracy from their parents. And they began to take rights and freedoms as a given. They have turned into consumers of values. They understand freedom as choosing between cheeses in the supermarket. And they are ready to exchange freedom for economic benefits, promises of security or personal comfort,” she continued.

Matviychuk recalled in her article the story of a friend who was hiding from Russian bombs in a bomb shelter in the first days of the war. Together with others, she watched broadcasts from the Kyiv region. The journalist showed live the consequences of the first attacks of the Russians – destroyed residential buildings, burned civilian cars, and frightened people. She ended her report by thanking everyone who was listening and watching them and saying that they, the journalists, would tell and show what was happening until the last moment, as long as they had such a physical opportunity.

“My friend cried when she told me this,” Matviychuk recalled. “Because that day, she also did not know if she would survive. The only link between her, her relatives, and the whole country was this journalist, who was just doing her job honestly. And this work suddenly became important even for those people who had never thought about it before.”

Matviychuk warned against taking freedom for granted. The future is uncertain and not guaranteed, she stressed. In the contemporary world, having a chance to fight for the future you want for yourself and your children is a luxury since many in the world don’t have such an opportunity.

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