Human Rights Day

It’s time we all stood up for someone’s rights


On December 10th, we celebrate the Human Rights Day, a remembrance of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948. This day is meant to be special for everyone, after all, it marks the moment when all human beings, regardless of their manifest or concealed differences, were formally and widely recognized as equals in rights and dignity. Different than the specific rights that apply to groups of people, the human rights are the rights’ umbrella for every single person on earth. They are universal, interdependent, and inalienable. They are the point where all rights meet, the place where all groups unite, the reality that all human is entitled to have.


Back when it was adopted, in the aftermath of two world wars and a major migration crisis, the UDHR was not law, but it was a strong statement against hate and a spark of hope: besides the powerful significance of the instrument itself, it is reassuring that the negotiation of the document was led by a woman, Eleanor Roosevelt, in a time where women leadership was even more challenging than it is today. Almost seven decades after its adoption, the Declaration has led to the incorporation of its fragments into many national legislations and to the rise of several important binding international documents – aside from existing regional agreements, the United Nations alone has 9 core international human rights conventions with respective monitoring bodies.

Despite the advancements in paper, nowadays we see human rights being systematically undermined in all corners of the globe. In real world, the universal concept of human rights is not enough to safeguard groups with specific vulnerabilities. The number of thematic conventions created since the UDHR reflects the need to provide particular protection to some groups of people because very concrete challenges are still perpetuating equality as just a myth:

  1. We don’t all have access to equal opportunities, dignity and freedom;
  2. Race, colour, sex, gender, religion, origin, language, property, and every other status are still persistent excuses for exclusion, discrimination, and disregard for one’s basic human rights;
  3. Poverty, inequality, slavery, hunger, and conflict still have disproportionate impact between the global hemispheres;
  4. Fear and hate still stand strong in public and private spaces;
  5. The prevalent hierarchy of civil and political rights over social, economic and cultural rights are still a enormous drawback for the overall advancement of human rights.

human-rights-day2016-enFor all that, it is opportune that the United Nations call on all of us to “stand up for someone’s rights today”. Your individual action is important because human rights cannot wait – while we don’t raise the standards for all, we will continue to have limited reasons to celebrate in this date. Also because, as Eleanor Roosevelt once said, the exercise of these universal rights begin “in small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person”. This way, as we must continue to push governments and authorities to fulfill the human rights of all peoples worldwide, we can also do our localized share.