WHAT IS HUMAN RIGHTS DAY ALL ABOUT?
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
This is the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Many of us will have heard this quote before but less will know the document it comes from. In fact, except when watching news about overseas dictatorships or repressive states, very few of us regularly think about how fortunate our lives are. Though chaos and corruption still continue to a certain degree, no matter the country, we are lucky to live in a place where our fundamental human rights are accepted with little argument. Though our Human Rights are undeniable every day of the year, the 10th of December is celebrated as Human Rights Day. But why?
History of Human Rights Day
After the horrors of World War II countries across the world wanted to ensure that no such atrocities could happen again. They wanted to safeguard anyone from unjustly being denied life, freedom, food, shelter or nationality. The essence of the feeling was captured in President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1941 State of the Union Address, when he spoke about a world founded on four essential freedoms: freedom of speech and religion and freedom from want and fear. This sentiment was echoed by many, and these voices were crucial in the San Francisco meeting that drafted the United Nations Charter in 1945.
On February 16 1946, a Commission on Human Rights was charged with drafting a document to encapsulate the fundamental rights and freedoms laid out in the Charter. The Commission, guided by Eleanor Roosevelt’s, captured global attention and the Assembly put forth 30 articles that cover everything including, education, health freedom and more.
On December 10 1948, the UDHR was unanimously voted for and adopted by the 56 members of the United Nations, though eight nations chose to abstain. Since this event the UDHR has helped to protect civilians in times of war or instability, helped to bring POW’s home and ensured that people everywhere are allowed to live in liberty and safety.
As UN Human Rights Chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said in his 2014 Human Rights Day speech: “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights promises, to all, the economic, social, political, cultural and civil rights that underpin a life free from want and fear,”
“These human rights are not country-specific. They are not a reward for good behaviour, or particular to a certain era or social group. They are the inalienable entitlements of all people, at all times and everywhere, 365 days a year,” said Mr. Zeid
The UDHR holds the Guinness World Record as the most translated document and is available in over 500 languages and dialects.
2020 Theme: Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights
This year’s Human Rights Day theme relates to the broad theme of “Standing up for Human Rights”. In the face of a global pandemic, the UN’s goal is to recover together and create a fairer, more resilient and more sustainable world. These are the key campaign points:
- End discrimination of any kind: Structural discrimination and racism have fuelled the COVID-19 crisis. Equality and non-discrimination are core requirements for a post-COVID world.
- Address inequalities: To recover from the crisis, we must also address the inequality pandemic. For that, we need to promote and protect economic, social, and cultural rights. We need a new social contract for a new era.
- Encourage participation and solidarity: We are all in this together. From individuals to governments, from civil society and grass-roots communities to the private sector, everyone has a role in building a post-COVID world that is better for present and future generations. We need to ensure the voices of the most affected and vulnerable inform the recovery efforts.
- Promote sustainable development: We need sustainable development for people and planet. Human rights, the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement are the cornerstone of a recovery that leaves no one behind.
How can you celebrate?
We may not traditionally celebrate Human Rights Day with balloons and cake but, this year, just take a moment to appreciate what this day has allowed you. Think about how different your life could be without the fundamental rights that you may take for granted. Celebrate by learning more about your human rights and sharing your opinions with people online.
If you want to learn more about the individuals articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights click here.
By Ilona Cabral
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