Human Rights

Launch: Poems of Liberty - Human Rights Edition

Poems. Not a lot of people read them today. For many, they are the boredom in stuffy classrooms, commonplace in tacky celebrations, and the embarrassment of old timey quotes on social media. And yet, undoubtedly, poems affect us greatly. No matter how boring those classes were, we can still recite some of these poems. They even move us still sometimes at the ceremonies, and we still find something to agree with in those old quotes. There is something innately beautiful in poems, which influences us.

Advertisers use rhymes so we remember slogans better, and politicians use music to elicit emotions in a crowd. Poems work! Great orators, such as Churchill used them often, and with immense success. Poems parodied tyrants when no one else dared to, poems forever preserved the memories of heroes, and poems declared love among countless couples.

Poems work to convey ideas, emotions and stories, which is why on this International Human Rights Day 2021 the European Dialogue Programme of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom and the Hungarian Free Market Foundation are launching their first edition of “Poems of Liberty”. This publication format seeks to present interesting and relevant poems around a topic in a new style. Every poem is accompanied by a brief description of the author and poem’s background and dives into the relevance of the issue in the EU today. We want to offer you just enough food for thought, to inspire your own thoughts and conversations on these issues. In addition, for each edition we team up with one of our Animate Europe comic artists, to bring some of these discussions to life.

A surprising number of poets were classical liberal or at least held values that classical liberals share. It is therefore fitting to celebrate the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 with six poems that each explore an aspect or topic of human rights that still holds relevance today. The Declaration was created in the wake of the horrors of World War II, and brought nations together to prevent it from ever happening again. This document was a victory for liberalism. Liberal democracies, peace, prosperity, rule of law and tolerance started spreading as countries began working together and the Iron Curtain fell. However, we do recognise that there is still a lot to do. Slavery in most of Europe and America was abolished in the 19th century, yet millions of people are victims of some form of slavery today. Fuelled by the different national and international crises of the past decade, populism is finding its way into our dinner table conversations and authoritarian governments are infringing on the rule of law and freedom of speech in their country, while fuelling negative sentiments and implementing discriminatory measures against minorities and vulnerable groups. Liberals must not sit back lest their victory becomes hollow. The following poems are a reminder of how far we as humanity come, but also of how far we are yet to go.

We hope you will enjoy reading the following poems while taking inspiration from them, to continue our work for a better future.