Supporting the UN’s call on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Given the Yuletide celebrations, we’re not surprised that the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights passed without greater fanfare.
Older readers will recall that the groundbreaking document was adopted in Paris, France, on December 10, 1948 in the aftermath of World War II, marking the first time that countries agreed to protect fundamental rights and freedoms on a universal scale, for all people.
We join the appeal issued by Mr Volker Turk, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, for world leaders to revive the spirit that led to the declaration in order to counter widespread oppression and polarisation being experienced across the world today.
Mr Turk, in his appeal at a function in Geneva celebrating the 75th anniversary of the declaration, pointed out that the document, spawned from the ashes of global warfare, brought hope, promised justice, and set out the path to peace.
However, the United Nations has noted that the declaration’s promise of dignity and equality in rights has been under a sustained assault in recent years.
Mr Turk, in fact, told guests at the ceremony that his thoughts went “to the millions of people suffering unbearably in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, notably in Gaza, and Israel; in Sudan; Ukraine; Myanmar; and so many other places”.
Mr Turk also argued that famine, oppressive and hateful discrimination, repression, persecution, as well as threats to human existence generated by climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss, are “profound and interlocking challenges that stem from failure to uphold human rights”.
Although the declaration is not legally binding, it stresses the supremacy of individual rights over those of states, and that those rights cannot be restricted by dictatorships spreading propaganda and ordering the eradication of individuals and groups they deem unworthy of protection.
Against that framework, we support the UN’s insistence that the declaration be respected and implemented to ensure that the universal human rights it affirms are truly universal.
While we acknowledge that countries have made pledges and advanced ideas for a vision for the future of human rights, we must state that those pledges are meaningless if they are not implemented.
It is therefore important that all states, regardless of size, support and act on the Human Rights 75 initiative embarked on by the UN to revive action towards greater knowledge of the universality of the declaration and the activism associated with it.
As Mr Turk correctly stated, at a time of so little solidarity, and so much divisive and short-sighted vision, the 75th anniversary should be seen as “a call to hope and… action, a call to overcome polarisation, a call to hark back to the spirit that led every member state to adopt the Universal Declaration; and to base local, national and global decisions, across all areas of policy, on the intrinsic and equal value of every human life”.