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 the inalienable rights of mankind.
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 its 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.
Today, we celebrate the global community’s recognition that all people are entitled to liberty, equality, and justice under the law.
This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: a powerful voice for those who too frequently go unseen and unheard. The High Commissioner responds to crises, supports human rights defenders, and facilitates advocacy, monitoring and training activities. Through these activities, the High Commissioner also contributes to legislative and policy reforms to increase accountability for human rights violations and advance human rights.
Since 1993, the High Commissioner’s Office has worked to ensure human rights are central to the global dialog regarding peace, security and development. It has identified specific groups that need extra protection, including women and children living in war zones, ethnic and indigenous minorities, LGBT persons, migrants, stateless people, persons with disabilities, and survivors of torture and of trafficking. And it has established specific protection guidelines for victims of human rights abuses.
Partly due to the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights, there is now international consensus that serious violations of human rights must not go unpunished, and that victims have the right to claim justice.
Today, we celebrate the global community’s recognition that all people are entitled to liberty, equality, and justice under the law. We reaffirm our commitment to promoting and protecting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, its fundamental truths, and pledge to continue to uphold and advance these fundamental freedoms, foster tolerance, and work toward building a more just and peaceful world.