Campaigning for a responsible tomorrow

Edith Sizoo, who now lives in France, works for the adoption of the Charter of Human Responsibilities, which will make individual citizens, organisations and nations responsible for their actions

Published: 10th October 2013 11:48 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th October 2013 11:48 AM   |  A+A-

Edith Sizoo was not born into a beautiful world. On the contrary, she was born in one of the darkest years of the 20th century - the year Adolf Hitler’s Germany invaded Poland, triggering World War II. The young Dutch girl ‘’did not grow up with fairy tales,’’ but with the anger and the fears of a faceless generation. The horrors of the war and the equally black aftermath left deep scars, but they also defined a mission for her. ‘’After the War, the question then was, ‘’who was responsible for what happened, especially to the Jews?’’ There was never an answer to that,’’ Sizoo says. Almost seven decades after the war ended, activist and author Edith has not lost sight of her mission. Edith, who now lives in France, is in the city as International Co-ordinator of the Forum on Ethics and Responsibility that works for the adoption of the Charter of Human Responsibilities, which will make individual citizens, organisations and nations responsible for their actions. ‘’The ultimate goal - it may not happen during my lifetime - is a Universal Declaration of Human Responsibility, which complements the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN in 1948,’’ Sizoo says. The idea of the new Charter was born in 2001, at the World Assembly of Citizens held in France. The delegates faced two profound questions: ‘What are the problems faced by humanity in the 21st century?’ and ‘What will help us face up to the challenges?’ ‘’Responsibility - that was the answer. The idea of responsibility is as old as humanity. In fact, it starts with parenthood. But times have changed. The idea of responsibility needs a rethink at all levels,’’ Sizoo says. In less complicated times, responsibility was something you took for granted - the reason why national constitutions do not spend too many pages on that subject. But in the 21st century, when technological and medical advances, pressures on the environment and economies have made the larger picture perplexing, the concept of responsibility is conveniently pushed aside. ‘’For example, over the last 50 years, we have had globalisation. We have multinational companies working together which are not controlled by any legal system. It is not clear who is responsible for what and to whom. Humanity is posing such a threat to the planet, it is not sure whether the planet will survive, she says. The last few years, Edith’s forum has been gradually working up the ladder; making individual nations aware of the need for responsibility before approaching the UN. Edith became involved in women’s issues during her first visit to India in the 1960s. Accompanied by her husband Sipko De Boer, she lived in Tamil Nadu for five years. She discovered that India was not only the India of Mahatma Gandhi. ‘’There was a lot of injustice against women. But I also saw how strong women are, their perseverance, their inventiveness to cope. It was like my father (Gerard Sizoo) said - ‘the act of overcoming suffering is to transform your suffering into positive action.’ That is what women do,’’ she such as ‘Women’s Life Worlds’ and ‘What Words Do Not Say,’ her new work, on responsibility and professional life, next year.


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