UN: 10 December 2007 – The freedoms upheld in the historic United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights must be enjoyed by everyone, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today on the occasion of Human Rights Day.
The Day also kicked off a year-long UN system-wide campaign, with the theme “Dignity and Justice for All of Us,” to raise awareness of the Declaration, which turns 60 on 10 December 2008.
“The Declaration remains as relevant today as it did on the day it was adopted,” Mr. Ban said. “But the fundamental freedoms enshrined in it are still not a reality for everyone. Too often, Governments lack the political will to implement international norms they have willingly accepted.”
He said that this year leading up to the 60th anniversary of the landmark document provides an opportunity to reinvigorate efforts to ensure that the Declaration’s freedoms apply to all.
“It is a chance to ensure that these rights are a living reality – that they are known, understood and enjoyed by everyone, everywhere,” the Secretary-General noted. “It is often those who most need their human rights protected, who also need to be informed that the Declaration exists – and that it exists for them.”
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, in a separate message, paid tribute to those who have given their lives in the pursuit of transforming the ideals of the Declaration – inherent human dignity, justice, non-discrimination, equality, fairness and universality – into reality.
“Today is also the day to reflect upon our individual and collective failures to stand up against violence, racism, xenophobia, torture, repression of unpopular views and injustices of all sorts,” she observed.
Efforts to make sure that every person can rely on just laws for his or her protection must be stepped up in the year leading up to the Declaration’s 60th anniversary, the High Commissioner said.
“In today’s growing divisions between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the vulnerable, the technologically advanced and the illiterate, the aggressors and the victims, the relevance of the Declaration and the universality of enshrined rights need to be loudly reaffirmed,” she declared.
The President of the General Assembly also sounded the alarm about those who are denied the Declaration’s rights, stating that “it is incumbent upon us to champion their cause.”
Srgjan Kerim urged that measures to promote rights should “live up to the spirit embodied by those who had the courage and conviction to leave us with this great legacy.”
Underscoring the rights of girls and women, who continue to be subjected to discrimination and violence, the head of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) stressed that “every human being should be able to live and make decisions free of coercion, discrimination and violence.”