Human Rights Day

This year, Human Rights Day is also the 70th birthday of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and will be marked all over the world. Since the document was signed on the 10th December 1948, it has become the world’s most translated text. It proclaims the rights of each and every person - regardless of race, colour, religion, gender or other status.

Standing up for dignity, justice and equality

The declaration sets out universal values for humankind. It was drafted by people from all over the world, representing a variety of different cultural backgrounds. To this day, it is held up as being one of the most important declarations in history. 

Eleanor Roosevelt, the First Lady of the United States, was appointed as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly and was instrumental in creating the declaration. After her death, she was awarded the United Nations Human Rights Prize in 1968 for her important work. Hansa Mehta was from India, and the only other woman in the General Assembly at the time. She is credited with coining the phrase “All human beings are born free and equal” in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. At the time, these two women, along with others such as Marie-Hélène Lefaucheux from France Minerva Benardino from the Dominican Republic, ran a successful campaign to ensure that non-discrimination based on sex and gender was included within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

Many countries signed up to uphold the agreement, and since it was signed in 1948, millions of people have been had their rights upheld and respected because of its foresight. Human Rights Day is about celebrating how far we have come in ensuring that everybody has equal rights, but also recognising that there is still a long way to go to ensure that the promise is realised. 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights empowers us all, and is relevant to everybody, every day. We can use the basic principles of the declaration to inform the way that we act within our community - being kind, generous and open. 

Our shared humanity is rooted in the values that the Human Rights Declaration lays down. If these human rights are ever abandoned, we are all at greater risk.

On the 10th December, it is important to remember those who are victim to abuses of human rights. Consider joining Amnesty International’s Write for Rights campaign this December, and write e-mails to governments and leaders to pressure them to adhere to the Universal Declaration for Human Rights.

By Grace Edwards