Stated by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:
As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, let us intensify our efforts to fulfill our collective responsibility to promote and protect the rights and dignity of all people everywhere.
On December 10, 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN General Assembly. This was due to the experiences during WWII. After the end of the war, the UN was created and international community vowed that the things that happened should never happen again, and world leaders decided to complement the Charter which made the UN, with something that will guarantee international rights to every human being. The document that was written and considered was what later became the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In 1950, the UN General Assembly proclaimed December 10th as Human Rights Day. This is a day set aside to bring to attention the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.
In December 1993, the UN General Assembly created the mandate of High Commissioner, for the promotion and protection of all human rights. The General Assembly acted on a recommendation from delegates to the World Conference on Human Rights that was held in Vienna earlier in the year.
The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action that was adopted by the World Conference marked the beginning of the people’s effort in protection and promotion of human rights, and has been regarded as one of the most significant human rights documents in the past quarter of a century.
2013 marks the 20th year of establishment of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
So, enough with the technical history.
What is the importance of this declaration?
It states that we are all born free and equal, no matter what race, color, sex, lanugage, religion, political or other affiliation, national or social origin, etc. It means that you cannot be held a slave, because it prohibited slavery and servitude. You cannot be subject to torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment. You are recognized as a person before the law. You are presumed innocent until proven guilty. You are given the right to marry and have a family. You have the right to own property.
And a lot more, which I’d rather you read about.
You may read the entire document here.
Over the past years, the Office of the High Commissioner advocated to advance human rights and to increase accountability for those who violate said rights.
As Former UN Secretary Kofi Annan said:
Human rights are what reason requires and conscience demands. They are us and we are them. Human rights are rights that any person has as a human being. We are all human beings; we are all deserving of human rights. One cannot be true without the other.
Also, since it is Human Rights day, after all, let us take this opportunity to pay tribute to a leader and icon, who served as inspiration to millions of other people, Nelson Mandela, who recently passed away at the age of 95.
The Secretary General of Amnesty International said about the late leader:
Nelson Mandela’s commitment to human rights was epitomised by his unswerving resolve to stamp out racial inequality during apartheid, followed by his vital work in combating HIV/AIDS in South Africa. His legacy across Africa, and the world, will stand for generations.
Learn more about the Nobel Laureate, former South African President, and human rights leader here.