December 10 is World Human Rights Day. The date was chosen to commemorate the adoption, by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: the first global enunciation of the inalienable rights of humankind.
Just three years after the end of the Second World War, and still stunned by the horrendous crimes committed against civilian populations, the United Nations General Assembly made the codification of a set of universal human rights a top priority. The final Declaration is based on the premise that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, as is explicitly stated in the Declaration’s first Article. The Declaration, which came into force in 1950, inspired the development of international human rights law, as well as the International Bill of Human Rights.
Since 1950, December 10th has annually been celebrated as Human Rights Day, to commemorate this important achievement of the then-fledgling United Nations. On this day, the Nobel Peace Prize is formally handed over to that year’s winner. And every year, the observance is dedicated to a different aspect of human rights. This year’s theme is “Dignity, Freedom, and Justice for All.”
President Joe Biden recently expounded on the foundational nature of this document. “The [Universal Declaration of Human Rights] enshrines the human rights and fundamental freedoms inherent in all people — no matter who they are, where they come from, or whom they love. It is a foundational document that proclaims a truth too often overlooked or ignored — that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. From the root of this universal ideal has sprung transformational human rights treaties and a global commitment to advance equality and dignity for all as the foundation of freedom, peace, and justice.”
“As a world, we have yet to achieve this goal, and we must continue our efforts to bend the arc of history closer to justice and the shared values that the UDHR enshrines,” said President Biden. “Just as we advocated for the recognition of universal human rights following World War II, the United States today remains steadfast in our commitment to advancing the human rights of all people — and to leading not by the example of our power but by the power of our example.”