x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Dubai plans domed Human Rights Village

Five domes will look at human rights from birth to death, health, food and water, the education and issues, with a sixth dome dedicated to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid.

DUBAI // The series of glass domes in a valley in Cornwall, in rural south-west England, looks thoroughly out of place. Built for the millennium, they are the Eden Project, a conservation effort intended to provide people with an education experience and preserve some of the world's threatened habitats.

Now Dubai - perhaps a more fitting home for a futuristic cityscape - is planning its own domed village, with a rather different message to promote: human rights. The project is necessary, according to Dr Sultan al Jamal, director of the Dubai Police's anti-human trafficking department, because too many people in the UAE are unaware of the idea of human rights. "People here need to take the initiative and be brave and fight for human rights," he said at a panel meeting at The Shelter yesterday to mark World Human Rights Day, the 61st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Dr al Jamal added that people needed to become more engaged in the struggle to protect human rights. "Take women, children, labourers, for example," he said. "We need to put the spotlight on them." In recent comments, Andrea al Balawi, the programme development manager for the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children, said: "Human rights - often sound or feel very abstract. "All our work is where the rubber meets the road: taking high-minded principles and putting them into practice."

The Human Rights Village, whose location has yet to be decided, will consist of five domes addressing different topics, and will be available and accessible to everyone. The first dome will focus on human rights from birth to death, the second on health, the third on food and water, the fourth on education, and the fifth will consist of a "challenging room" where issues are discussed and addressed.

Each dome will also have classrooms for training with specialists in specific areas of human rights, said Dr al Jamal. There will also be a sixth dome dedicated to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to honour his efforts to promote human rights. Urs Stirnimann, a legal consultant based in Dubai and former delegate to the International Committee of the Red Cross, emphasised that human rights work had to start at home.

"It is more difficult to clean up your own house than to go to someone else's and tell them how to clean theirs," he said. "It needs to come from within." According to him, there is no country in the world that has not violated human rights at some point, and those violations need to be addressed. The UAE has sometimes been criticised in the foreign media and by international pressure groups for its human rights record.

Githu Muigai, the UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism and xenophobia, drew attention to the problem of human trafficking in the UAE after a five-day visit to the country in October. He also called for an end to discrimination against migrant workers, and voiced concerns about the system of granting citizenship. In May, the Government expressed its disappointment at a report by the pressure group Human Rights Watch on labour conditions on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, arguing that the organisation had failed to recognise its concerted efforts to improve the conditions.

The report claimed conditions for construction workers on the island amounted to "forced labour". Dr Anwar Gargash, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said the report was an attempt to sensationalise the issue. nsamaha@thenational.ae