Sixty years ago this week in Paris, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The original text was a collaborative effort from representatives from many nations including the United States (Eleanor Roosevelt was part of the team), written as a way to repudiate the atrocities brought on by the Nazis and their allies during World War II.
At the session that approved the text, eight nations decided to abstain - including the entire Soviet bloc and South Africa, which was still under the cruel Apartheid law at the time. In the decades since its adoption, the document helped to influence human rights laws in many countries around the world, and is one of the most translated and praised written documents in recent history.
But there is still work to be done - in many places throughout the globe, people still suffer through discrimination, intolerance and simple ignorance, with dire consequences. To bring attention to this, Amnesty International has joined forces with LinkTV, Music Has No Enemies and Aterciopelados by fashioning the Colombian duo's "Cancion Protesta" into a multi-lingual anthem in favor of the principles defended by the UDHR.
While the tune's original lyrics point a finger against the Bush administration's "with us or against us" attitude in the early days of the War on Terror, the new version pleads in favor of those disenfranchised by hunger, war, hate and other forms of violence, and includes names like Julieta Venegas (Mexico), Stephen Marley (Jamaica), Natalie Merchant (U.S.), Angelique Kidjo (Benin), Hugh Masekela (South Africa) , Chiwoniso (Zimbabwe), HRachid Taha Yerba Buena (pan-Latin), Natacha Atlas (UK/Egypt) and many others.
The video released with the song is impressive: Actor Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix, CSI) opens with a spoken-word monologue, and then the camera shifts to the stage at the United Nations Assembly. Stephen Marley (right) begins the song by himself, then is joined by a succession of artists - not actually present at the assembly but expertly composited in - while actors playing delegates take in the message.
In one of the video's most poignant moments, Sudanese-born rapper Emmanuel Jal speaks of his own childhood, when he was taken away from his family to become a child soldier. At one point, he raps, "I have seen too many papers getting signed and nothing getting done - I lost my childhood, was it really God's plan?"
As the video comes to a close, Aterciopelados' very pregnant Andrea Echeverri (right) sings a message in Spanish to the delegates, which is translated into various languages. This release is a laudable effort that proves once again that music has the capacity of bringing people together for the world's greater good. Fans can help by purchasing the track from iTunes; proceeds benefit Amnesty International's various programs around the planet. - Ernest Barteldes