What Do You Know About Human Rights Day?
Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December. It was on this day that the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Human rights are inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or another status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more.
Everyone is entitled to these rights without discrimination.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights empowers us all, and the principles enshrined in the Declaration are as relevant today as they were in 1948 when it was adopted. We need to stand up for our rights and those of others. We can take action in our own daily lives to uphold the rights that protect us all and thereby promote the kinship of all human beings.
Human Rights Violations
Human rights advocates agree that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is still a mere dream even after over six decades of its issue. That’s because violations still exist in every part of the world. For example, Amnesty International’s 2009 World Report and other sources show that individuals are:
- Tortured or abused in at least 81 countries
- Face unfair trials in at least 54 countries
- Restricted in their freedom of expression in at least 77 countries
Not only that, but women and children, in particular, are marginalized in numerous ways, the press is not accessible in many countries, and dissenters are silenced, too often permanently. While some gains have occurred over the last six decades, human rights violations still plague the world today.
International Human Rights Law
International Human Rights Law lays down the obligations of Governments to act in specific ways or to refrain from certain acts to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups.
One of the outstanding achievements of the United Nations is the creation of a comprehensive body of human rights law, a universal and internationally protected code to which all nations can subscribe, and all people aspire. The United Nations has defined a broad range of internationally accepted rights, including civil, cultural, economic, political, and social rights. It has also established mechanisms to promote and protect these rights and assist states in carrying out their responsibilities.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives from different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 by General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. For the first time, it sets out fundamental human rights to be universally protected.
And since its adoption in 1948, the UDHR has been translated into more than 500 languages — the most translated document in the world — and has inspired the constitutions of many newly independent States and many new democracies. The UDHR, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its two Optional Protocols (on the complaints procedure and the death penalty) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and its Optional Protocol, form the so-called International Bill of Human Rights.
Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights
The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights was entered in 1976. The human rights that the Covenant seeks to promote and protect include:
- The right to work in just and favorable conditions;
- The right to social protection, to an adequate standard of living, and the highest attainable standards of physical and mental well-being;
- The right to education and the enjoyment of cultural freedom and scientific progress benefits.
Civil and political rights
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its First Optional Protocol entered into force in 1976. The Second Optional Protocol was approved in 1989.
The Covenant deals with such rights as freedom of movement; equality before the law; the right to a fair trial and presumption of innocence; freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; freedom of opinion and expression; peaceful assembly; freedom of association; participation in public affairs and elections; and protection of minority rights. It prohibits arbitrary deprivation of life; torture, cruel or degrading treatment or punishment; slavery and forced labor; arbitrary arrest or detention; arbitrary interference with privacy; war propaganda; discrimination; and racial or religious hatred advocacy.
Human Rights Conventions
A series of international human rights treaties and other instruments adopted since 1945 have expanded the international human rights law body. They include the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006), among others.
Human rights gain new meaning when they become a reality in the daily life of every single person in the world. Bringing human rights home is at the core of UNESCO’s mission in all its fields of competence; education, science, culture, and communication. In the context of the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), UNESCO brings to the fore the centrality of human rights protection in the history and the mandate of the Organization.
Author: Akanni Olamilekan