Nations around the world are marking the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The 30-point document was adopted by the UN in the aftermath of WWII and emphasises rights and freedoms that are held to apply to everyone in the world.
The Declaration has come to form the basis of much international law and has provided moral and legal backing for UN action against human rights violators. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said it was needed now as much as in 1948.
“The challenges we face today are as daunting as those that confronted the Declaration’s drafters,” Mr Ban said in a statement.
The world faces a “food emergency and global financial crisis” and “there is political repression in too many countries,” Mr Ban said. “As ever, the most vulnerable continue to be on the frontlines of hardship and abuse.”
He urged “those who are spared the most negative effects of disaster, poverty or instability” to not “turn a blind eye” to rights abuses. “The cascading effects of abuse and indifference can eventually engulf the entire planet.”
Much to do
On the eve of the 10 December anniversary, hundreds of Chinese lawyers, writers, academics and artists issued an online call for greater freedoms in China and democratic reforms. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, welcomed US President-elect Barack Obama’s pledge to close the the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, which houses hundreds of terrorism suspects detained since the 9/11 attacks.
She called for an inquiry into the facility, “so that conditions such as arbitrary detention, torture, cruel and inhuman treatment, are not ever again espoused by the US or copied by other countries”.
Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, called the Declaration the “single most important global statement of the inherent dignity and equal rights of all people”.
It “has inspired millions fighting for freedom and justice over the past six decades and continues to be a beacon of hope for people around the world,” she told the BBC News.
But she said much progress remained to be done towards fulfilling the ambitions set down in the Declaration. She said that for women around the world, domestic violence remained a daily reality and that about one billion people “are daily denied basic rights to adequate food and clean water”.