Sunday, December 10, 2006

10 December: Human Rights Day

(click on picture to go to official Human Rights Day Website)

Fity-eight years the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted on this very day, recognising "the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family [as] the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world". For too long, "disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind", and it was " the highest aspiration of the common people"that all "human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want".

Sadly, billions of people in the world still live in circumstances and countries where theyfundamental rights to basic freedoms are denied or infringed upon. It's not just the countless people imprisoned for excercising their freedom to speak out against tyranny and oppression. It's not only the fact so many men, women and children are slaving away for meagre salaries in inhumane conditions. It's not just the many, many who are discriminated against because of their skin colour, their beliefs, gender and sexual orientation. It also includes the millions and millions of people who do not have the right to clean water, adequate food, and security of life and family.

For one day, or maybe just for one single moment today, let us cherish the rights and freedoms we take for granted, and remember those who long to enjoy them. Together we stand.

Because we are all human beings.


Statement from Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:

On this Human Rights Day, we reaffirm that freedom from want is a right, not merely a matter of compassion. Fighting poverty is a duty that binds those who govern as surely as their obligation to ensure that all people are able to speak freely, choose their leaders and worship as their conscience guides them.


Many rich countries have yet to meet development assistance targets they have accepted, yet they continue to spend ten times more on military budgets. They also spend nearly four times their development assistance budget – an amount almost equal to the total gross national product of African countries –to subsidize their own domestic agricultural producers. Indifference and a narrow calculus of national interests by wealthy countries hamper human rights and development just as damagingly as discrimination at the local level.

Here are comments by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan,

I don't need to tell you , of all people, that the United Nations has a special stake, and a special responsibility, in promoting respect for human rights worldwide. But equally – and less happily – I don't need to tell you that the UN has often failed to live up to that responsibility. I know that ten years ago many of you were close to giving up on any hope that an organization of governments, many of which are themselves gross violators of human rights, could ever function as an effective human rights defender.


Development, security and human rights go hand in hand; no one of them can advance very far without the other two. Indeed, anyone who speaks forcefully for human rights but does nothing about security and development – including the desperate need to fight extreme poverty – undermines both his credibility and his cause. Poverty in particular remains both a source and consequence of rights violations. Yet if we are serious about human deprivation, we must also demonstrate that we are serious about human dignity, and vice versa.


We must work to make human rights a reality in each country.

Of course, protecting and promoting human rights is first and foremost a national responsibility. Every member state of the UN can draw on its own history to develop its own ways of upholding universal rights. But many states need help in doing this, and the UN system has a vital role to play.

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