The history of Human Rights Day and its central message

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By: Dr Firdoos Ahmad Wani

“It is absolutely clear that we need to regain the universality of human rights, the indivisibility of human rights, and we need to find a new energy that motivates young people around the world.”

This year’s Human Rights Day slogan is ‘Dignity, Freedom, and Justice for All’ and the call to action is ‘Stand Up For Human Rights’.

The United Nations General Assembly enacted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on 10 December 1948 to guarantee the inherent rights of every human being, regardless of caste, gender, race, religion, country, etc. Since then, the 10th of December has been a significant day to remind mankind of the rights they deserve and the rights they violate. While this day is recognised to raise awareness about people’s social, cultural, political and religious rights, let’s have a look at the day’s history and events that led to its constitution.

History; Human Right Day

The UDHR is deemed a milestone document that is available in more than 500 languages and is said to be the most translate document in the world, according to the UN’s official website.There have been multiple precursors to the 20th-century document and to name a few, it would be — the Magna Carta drafted in 1215, the English Bill of Rights of 1689, the French Declaration on the Rights of Man and Citizen of 1789, the US Constitution and Bill of Rights in 1791 and so on. However, when these documents were translated it was found out that the policies ignored women, people of colour, race and religion.

Birth of UN and adoption of UDHR

After World War II, the need to speak loudly about human rights arose considerably later. Following the mass slaughter of Jews, persons with disabilities, gays, and others by Nazi Germany, the desire to defend the rights of individuals from all walks of life against the terrible acts of governments and rulers became universal.

Eventually, governments of various countries pledged to the formation of an international body (the United Nations) to safeguard the rights of people, especially the one lacking ‘power’. The essence of these human rights principles first found its place in US President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s State of the Union Address in 1941. In his address, commonly known as ‘Four Freedoms’, the 32nd US President talked about a world that should stand on four essential freedoms — freedom of speech and religion, and freedom from want and fear. Largely influenced by Roosevelt’s speech, the voices from across the world came together to support the drafting of the United Nations Charter in 1945 in San Fransico.

Eventually, on February 16, 1946, the UN member states created a Commission on Human Rights to prepare a declaration articulating the basic rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Charter. Under the ‘forceful’ direction of former U.S. first lady Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, the Commission produced the UDHR, which was accepted by 56 member states on December 10, 1956.

What is the UDHR?

The Preamble of UDHR asserts: “Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.”Commonly referred to as the international Magna Carta, the UDHR pronounces the international law that tells a government the way its citizens must be treated irrespective of gender, class, sex, social background, religion and so on. The Charter, although not a legally binding document, realises that the treatment meted out to a country’s citizen is of international concern, and not limited to the domestic borders.

International bodies have recognised the Charter “as a common standard of achievement for all people and all nations.”

It claims that all rights are ‘interdependent’ and ‘indivisible’.

Currently, the principles of the UDHR have been incorporated into the constitutions of most member countries of the UN.

Human Rights Day 2022: Highlights

  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted on December 10, 1948, by the United Nations
  • UDHR: One of UN’s significant achievements as well as the first enunciation of human rights across the world.
  • With translations in more than 500 languages it becomes very easy to access and get to know about our basic human rights which are still being violated in many countries.
  • The Declaration consists of a Preamble and 30 articles that sets out the basic fundamental rights and freedoms that should be given to everyone.
  • ‘Dignity, Freedom and Justice for All’ is the theme for Human Rights Day 2022.
  • One should also acknowledge one’s spiritual rights as well. Because every right is in vain without spiritual rights.

International Human Rights 2021: Theme

This year’s topic, “Equality,” alludes to Article 1 of the UDHR, which states, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” The theme is consistent with the UN’s 2030 agenda, which has been outlined in a document that describes the international organization’s approach to finding sustainable solutions “for deeply rooted forms of discrimination that have affected the most vulnerable people in societies, including women and girls, indigenous peoples, people of African descent, LGBTI people, migrants, and people with disabilities, among others.”

What is the aim of human rights day?

Human Rights Day aims to encourage all UN member states to reaffirm the importance of human rights in re-building the world we want, the need for global solidarity, and our interconnectedness and shared humanity.

This year, the main aim of HRD (Human Rights Day) is is Dignity, Freedom, and Justice for All. Both the Declaration and WHO’s Constitution assert that health is a fundamental human right for all people.

The author is Phd Scholar, writer and poet and can be reached [email protected]

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