On December 10th, the world observes United Nations' Human Rights Day. The date was chosen to commemorate the adoption, by the UN General Assembly in 1948, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: the first global enunciation of human rights.
Having just lived through the horrors of the Second World War, the founding countries of the UN resolved, at the Organization's birth in 1945, to never again allow such atrocities to occur. Three years later, the UN General Assembly stated in the ground-breaking Universal Declaration of Human Rights that respect for human rights and human dignity "is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world". The first Human Rights Day Observance took place in 1950.
2011 is notable as the year that people across the Middle East stood up to demand their rights. What began in Tunisia as a protest against unemployment, corruption, abuse and repression soon swelled into a nationwide demand by Tunisians for their rights as citizens and human beings. Before long, their neighbors: Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen took up the cry.
But ultimately, it is not national movements but rather the actions of individuals, of each citizen of the world, that will ensure that each human being should, and must, be seen by the law and by his or her fellows as a "human being born free and equal in dignity and rights."
As former First Lady and First U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Eleanor Roosevelt said, "Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination.
"Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world."