A number of countries in Africa celebrated the 50th anniversary of their independence during the year while others prepared to do so soon. Despite the celebrations, the hopes and aspirations of many people in Africa remained unfulfilled
In the Americas many human rights have been recognized in law, if not always in practice, over the past 50 years. While abuses clearly persist – particularly against vulnerable groups – the region has undeniably seen progress, albeit slow and partial. Governments can rightly claim some credit for these changes. However, it is the communities most affected by human rights abuses who have been the real driving force behind these advances. It is they who have spoken out and campaigned for change, often at great personal risk. It is their determination and persistence that have inspired millions and made it increasingly difficult for states to ignore the growing clamour for fundamental and irreversible change. The year began, however, with a sharp reminder of how fragile.
In a region with almost two thirds of the world’s population, stretching a third of the way around the planet, a few individual human rights defenders, like Binayak Sen, continued to dominate headlines and affect national and geopolitical events because of their courage in speaking truth to power.
The right to truth and justice, and the determination of victims and their relatives to achieve this however long and however hard the struggle, remained a key part of the human rights landscape across the Europe and Central Asia region throughout the year.
2010 dawned with Yemen an unusual focus of international attention following an alleged terrorist incident. It closed with many eyes transfixed by the emergent people’s power in Tunisia and the chain reaction it was setting off elsewhere in the region. Both involved suicide – the first, an alleged suicide bomber aiming to kill passengers on a commercial jet; the second, the self-immolation by a young man in despair at his lack of work or opportunity and worn down by political repression.