70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Human Rights

Solutions to World’s Problems Lie in Upholding Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Secretary-General emphasizes in Observance Message
10 December 2018
Following are UN Secretary General António Guterres’ remarks at the high level event to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in Marrakesh, Morocco today:

The profound language and the symbolic significance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights have made it the world’s most widely translated document. Its adoption marked the first time that countries had ever come together to recognize that all people, everywhere, share fundamental, inalienable rights.

The economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights enshrined in this foundational document belong to everyone, regardless of race, colour, gender, language, faith or opinion. Over seven decades, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has inspired millions of women and men to demand their rights and contest the forces of oppression, exploitation, discrimination and injustice. It has given rise to a rich body of legally binding international human rights treaties and it continues to be an inspiration to people around the world.

But the Universal Declaration is much more than a source of inspiration and a statement of principles. Its 30 articles constitute practical measures for advancing peace and inclusive sustainable development. It has given birth to movements by groups of all kinds, from indigenous peoples to persons with disabilities. Its principles are embedded in national legislations and regional treaties, and more than 90 states have enshrined its language in their Constitutions.

No one ever loses their human rights, no matter what they do or who they are. So, it is apt that the first day of this conference to adopt the Global Compact for Migration is taking place on the seventieth anniversary of the General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration.

The Compact is a new and important step towards safety and dignity for millions of people. It sets out in practical terms how Member States and other stakeholders can respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of all migrants, in line with the Universal Declaration.

Seventy years ago, after the Holocaust and the carnage of the Second World War, our forebears drafted 30 articles that lay out the “foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”. They hoped the lessons of war would spare their children, and successive generations, from a similar fate. We ignore these lessons and this guidance at our peril.

It saddens me to say that, in this year marking the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the human rights agenda is losing ground and authoritarianism is on the rise. People all over the world still endure constraints on — or even total denial — of their human rights. Torture, extrajudicial killings, detention without trial and other egregious human rights violations still persist. Gender inequality remains a pressing issue — with untold women and girls facing daily insecurity, violence and violation of their rights. We are also seeing a groundswell of xenophobia, racism and intolerance, including anti Semitism and anti Muslim hatred.

I am particularly concerned about the growth of intolerance and the shrinking space for civil society. Today human rights and their defenders are under increasing pressure in all regions. This will not solve any of the challenges the world faces. The solutions to society’s problems lie in staying bound to our shared commitment to uphold the human rights and the inherent dignity and equality of each human being.

Human rights are the cornerstone of State sovereignty; they are a tool to help States and societies grow and be resilient. They help empower women and girls. They help advance development. They help prevent conflict and ensure a just, equitable and prosperous world.

But much remains to be done to make human rights a reality for all. As true custodians of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, your continued commitment to the rights it enshrines is critical. Let us all keep the beacon of this towering document alight so it can guide us all on the path of peace, dignity, security and opportunity for all. Thank you.


70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet
Geneva (6 December 2018) –
On 10 December, we mark the 70th anniversary of that extraordinary document, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It is, I firmly believe, as relevant today as it was when it was adopted 70 years ago.

Arguably even more so, as over the passing decades, it has passed from being an aspirational treatise into a set of standards that has permeated virtually every area of international law.

It has withstood the tests of the passing years, and the advent of dramatic new technologies and social, political and economic developments that its drafters could not have foreseen…

…Born out of the devastation of two World Wars, the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the Holocaust, the Universal Declaration is geared to prevent similar disasters, and the tyranny and violations which caused them. It sets out ways to prevent us from continuing to harm each other, and aims to provide us with “freedom from fear and want.”

It sets limits on the powerful, and inspires hope among the powerless.

Over the seven decades since its adoption, the Universal Declaration has underpinned countless beneficial changes in the lives of millions of people across the world, permeating some 90 national Constitutions and numerous national, regional and international laws and institutions.

But, 70 years after its adoption, the work the Universal Declaration lays down for us to do is far from over. And it never will be.

In 30 crystal-clear articles, the Universal Declaration shows us the measures which will end extreme poverty, and provide food, housing, health, education, jobs and opportunities for everyone.

It lights the path to a world without wars and Holocausts, without torture or famine or injustice. A world where misery is minimized and no one is too rich or powerful to evade justice.

A world where every human has the same worth as every other human, not just at birth but for the duration of their entire lives.

The drafters wanted to prevent another war by tackling the root causes, by setting down the rights everyone on the planet could expect and demand simply because they exist – and to spell out in no uncertain terms what cannot be done to human beings…

I am convinced that the human rights ideal, laid down in this Declaration, has been one of the most constructive advances of ideas in human history – as well as one of the most successful. But today, that progress is under threat.

We are born ‘free and equal,’ but millions of people on this planet do not stay free and equal. Their dignity is trampled and their rights are violated on a daily basis.

In many countries, the fundamental recognition that all human beings are equal, and have inherent rights, is under attack. The institutions so painstakingly set up by States to achieve common solutions to common problems are being undermined.

And the comprehensive web of international, regional and national laws and treaties that gave teeth to the vision of the Universal Declaration is also being chipped away by governments and politicians increasingly focused on narrow, nationalist interests.

We all need to stand up more energetically for the rights it showed us everyone should have – not just ourselves, but all our fellow human beings – and which we are at constant risk of eroding through our own, and our leaders’ forgetfulness, neglect or wanton disregard.

I will end, where the Universal Declaration begins, with the powerful promise – and warning – contained in the first lines of its Preamble:

“…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.

“…Disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief, and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people.

“…It is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse as a last resort to rebellion against tyranny and oppression that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.”

And we would do well to pay more attention to the final words of that same Preamble:

“…every individual and every organ of society keeping this Declaration constantly in mind shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.”

We have come a long way down this path since 1948. We have taken many of progressive measures prescribed by the Universal Declaration at the national and international levels.

But we still have a long way to go, and too many of our leaders seem to have forgotten these powerful and prophetic words. We need to rectify that, not just today, not just on the 70th anniversary next Monday, but every day, every year.

Human rights defenders the world over are on the frontlines of defending the Universal Declaration through their work, their dedication and their sacrifice. No matter where we live or what our circumstances are, most of us do have the power to make a difference – to make our homes, communities, countries, and our world better – or worse – for others. Each of us needs to do our part to breathe life into the beautiful dream of the Universal Declaration.

For this was the gift of our ancestors, to help us avoid ever having to go through what they went through.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the UN General Assembly at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris three years after the end of World War II. It was the product of 18 months’ work by a drafting committee, with members and advisers from all across the world, and – in the words of one of its principal architects, René Cassin – “at the end of one hundred sessions of elevated, often impassioned discussion, was adopted in the form of 30 articles on December 10, 1948.”

A series of 30 short articles on each of the 30 Articles of the Universal Declaration


Statement by USAID Administrator Mark Green on International Human Rights Day
December 10, 2018
On this International Human Rights Day, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) reaffirms our commitment to promoting and advancing human rights and human dignity around the world. As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims, the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family are the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world. On behalf of the American people, USAID works to advance those ideals each day. As we strive to promote democratic values abroad, and advance a free, peaceful, and prosperous world, we recognize that support for the human rights of all is critical towards advancing our mission.

The threats to human rights and liberty are not limited to one country or region. In my travels as Administrator, I have seen first-hand that our work in protecting the human rights of all mankind is far from over. When I visited Bangladesh, I met with Rohingya families who had suffered devastating violence in Burma merely because of their ethnicity and religious beliefs. In the Middle East, I spoke with survivors of the so-called Islamic State’s brutality, and pledged that the United States would always be by their side as they seek to rebuild their communities.

On International Human Rights Day, we recommit ourselves towards meeting the shared commitments of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, reiterate our offer of assistance to those in need, and call on every country to respect the human rights and dignity of all people.