The Global Dignity Day was celebrated yesterday. In Islamabad, I had the pleasure of attending an event a few days earlier, with Irfan Wahab Khan, Telenor Pakistan’s CEO and leader of the company’s Emerging Asia Cluster; Right to Play country representative, Iqbal Jatoi, whose chair is Olympic Sports Winner Johan Olav Koss, Norway; and Amir Jahangir, the Mishal Pakistan CEO, who is the Global Dignity’s coordinator in Pakistan. True, there were many with Norwegian relations at the meeting, and I joked about that I was perhaps invited just because of my nationality. But it was a worthwhile and educational event. A message by the Norwegian Crown Prince Haakon was screened at the opening. He is one of three persons who in 2006 founded the Global Dignity Initiative; the others are John Hope Bryant, and American poverty eradication activist, and Finnish philosophy professor Pekka Himanen. Crown Prince Haakon is now chairman for the work in Norway. Among other related things, he is also a goodwill ambassador of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and thus an advocate for achieving the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, adopted in 2015, to be reached by 2030.

As a Masters’ degree holder in development studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), studies at UCL-Berkeley and Oslo, and many fieldtrips to developing countries, Crown Prince Haakon knows well that there isn’t much dignity for people living in poverty; greater equality and sharing of the world’s wealth are required for dignity for all. Speeches about dignity can only be the first step, as was emphasized at the Global Dignity Day events yesterday, in Pakistan and over 70 countries worldwide where the day was observed, especially at schools and colleges.

The idea behind the Global Dignity initiative is to focus on how we can enhance our own dignity, as well as that of others, through the way we treat each other. We see it as a human right to be treated with dignity, respect and decency. We want to be treated as equals, not less and not more than others. In return, we must also treat everyone else with the same respect irrespective of creed and cradle, social status and other differences. Men and women must be treated equally; people with physical or other handicaps, people with different sexual orientations, people of other races, people with low level of formal education, and so on, must all be treated equally. When doing that, we become better ourselves; it enhances our self-respect which is a foundation for showing respect towards others.

We should be able to say: I am not perfect, but as good as I can be. Since I respect myself the way I am, I also respect others the way they are.

Having my background in the education and international development, I have always been concerned about the importance of moral education and ethics. I believe these issues are the basics of all education and development efforts, and they are more important than skills, knowledge, and technological achievements. Today, we are so concerned about the latter, and there may be good reasons for that, too. But the compass that helps us determine our decisions and choices are based on moral and ethical principles and foundations, adjusted to the time, place and context we live in. Obviously, in our time and age, it is difficult to live in dignity without being literate. Also, in Pakistan, indeed in the cities, a minimum of English language is required, especially for the young generation in order to be included in mainstream society and democratic decision-making.

Let me now in the remaining part of my article draw attention to some political aspects related to achieving human dignity, locally and globally, and the rules and regulations that are needed in a society, locally and internationally, so that everyone can be treated right and equally. Everyone must have the right to contribute and receive in a society and community. The old leftist way of saying it is: everyone should contribute to his or her ability and receive to his or her needs. That sounds like a good foundation for human dignity in a society.

In the work sector, it is important that work conditions are regulated; labour unions and other organizations must keep an eye on implementation of rules and regulations, and the legal system must be used to enforce labour laws. That means that hiring and firing must follow the laws and not be arbitrary at the whims of employers; that minimum salaries are paid on time (in Islamabad, 17,500 rupees a month); that women and men are treated equally without any harassment or abuse; that work conditions are safe and orderly; that working hours are fair and overtime paid, and leave time is given as a right; and much more. Fairness in the work sector at large, and each work place, will lead to higher productivity, something that the employer will indeed benefit from.

In developing countries, the informal sector, including extended families, plays a major role for employment. Although there are regulations pertaining to these situations, such as laws against child labour and regulations for domestic workers, monitoring and implementation of the laws are often not possible. There is often little dignity for these workers, and if the workers are not given dignity that also means that the employers do not have dignity.

The day that was observed yesterday, on the third Wednesday of October every year, is name Global Dignity Day, which means that reference is given to how rich countries relate to poor countries, not only how internal conditions are. Today, there are over seventy million refugees in the world, and hundreds of millions of migrants. We should reflect on to what degree people on the move are treated with dignity, more than that, we should ascertain that existing international laws are implemented. All migrants and refugees, also those who risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Africa to Europe, and the Syrian refugees whose political views we disagree with, must be treated with dignity – as they, too, must treat each other and us with dignity. The suffering in Indian Occupied Kashmir leaves everything for people to live in dignity.

Professor Evelin Gerda Lindner is a German-Polish psychologist and medical doctor, who now lives in Norway. In recent decades, she has worked on the tragedies of the people in Somalia and the Great Lakes region in Africa (Rwanda and Burundi). She is the founder of the Network for Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies, and has written several books about the issues; annual are organised conferences and a virtual university has been established.

Just now, Professor Lindner is at home with her 95-year old father in Germany. He lost his wife a few years ago; he needs to live in dignity in his waning years of life. His daughter can help him in that, and they will both gain from it. Jesus said in the Bible (Luke 6:31 and Matthew 7:12) that we should do unto others what we want others to do unto us, a commandment as important as to love God. This Golden Rule, as it is called, enhances our dignity and makes us better human beings.