Human Rights Day 2011
Human Rights Day 2011
This year, millions of people decided the time had come to claim their rights. They took to the streets and demanded change. Many found their voices using the internet and instant messaging to inform, inspire and mobilize supporters to seek their basic human rights. Social media helped activists organize peaceful protest movements in cities across the globe – from Tunis to Madrid, from Cairo to New York – at times in the face of violent repression.
Human rights belong equally to each of us and bind us together as a global community with the same ideals and values. As a global community we all share a day in common: Human Rights Day on 10 December, when we remember the creation 63 years ago of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
On Human Rights Day 2011, we pay tribute to all human rights defenders and ask you to get involved in the global human rights movement.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights hosted a global conversation on human rights through social media on Friday, 9 December at 9:30 a.m. New York time.
See a sampling of the questions we received on our Storify page.
Help us celebrate human rights!
This year everybody has an opportunity to support human rights by joining our celebration. Invite your family and friends to participate in our social media campaign. Become a human rights campaigner; learn more about your rights and spread the word www.celebratehumanrights.org
About Human Rights Day
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted on 10 December 1948. The date has since served to mark Human Rights Day worldwide. The High Commissioner for Human Rights, as the main UN rights official, and her Office play a major role in coordinating efforts for the yearly observance of Human Rights Day.
The UDHR: the foremost statement of the rights and freedoms of all human beings
The Declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, consists of a preamble and 30 articles, setting out a broad range of fundamental human rights and freedoms to which all men and women, everywhere in the world, are entitled, without any distinction.
The Declaration was drafted by representatives of all regions and legal traditions. It has over time been accepted as a contract between governments and their peoples. Virtually all states have accepted it. The Declaration has also served as the foundation for an expanding system of human rights protection that today focuses also on vulnerable groups such as disabled persons, indigenous peoples and migrant workers.
The Most Universal Document in the World
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has been awarded the Guinness World Record for having collected, translated and disseminated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into more than 380 languages and dialects: from Abkhaz to Zulu. The Universal Declaration is thus the most translated document – indeed, the most “universal” one in the world.
What is a human right?
What is a human rights treaty body?
What is the Human Rights Council?
Human rights belong to every one of us without exception. But unless we know them, unless we demand they be respected, and unless we defend our right — and the right of others — to exercise them, they will be just words in a decades-old document.
That is why, on Human Rights Day, we do more than celebrate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 – we acknowledge its enduring relevance for our own times.
The importance of human rights has been underlined over and over again this year. Across the globe, people mobilized to demand justice, dignity, equality, participation — the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration.
Many of these peaceful demonstrators persevered despite being met with violence and further repression. In some countries, the struggle continues; in others, important concessions were gained or dictators were toppled as the will of the people prevailed.
Many of the people seeking their legitimate aspirations were linked through social media. Gone are the days when repressive governments could totally control the flow of information. Today, within their existing obligation to respect the rights of freedom of assembly and expression, governments must not block access to the internet and various forms of social media as a way to prevent criticism and public debate.
Yet at the end of an extraordinary year for human rights, let us take strength from the achievements of 2011: new democratic transitions set in motion, new steps to ensure accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity, new and ever-spreading awareness of rights themselves.
As we look to the challenges ahead, let us take inspiration from the example of human rights activists and the timeless power of the Universal Declaration, and do our utmost to uphold the ideals and aspirations that speak for every culture and every person.
High Commissioner’s Message
2011 has been an extraordinary year for human rights.
A year when a single word, embodying the thwarted quest of a single impoverished young man in a remote province of Tunisia, struck a chord which swiftly rose to a crescendo.
Within days it had rolled into the capital, Tunis, with such a roar that, in just four weeks it knocked the foundations from under an entrenched and apparently invincible authoritarian regime. This precedent, and its radical revision of the art of the possible, quickly reverberated into the streets and squares of Cairo, followed one after another by towns and cities all across the region, and, ultimately, in different forms, across the world.
That word, that quest, was for “dignity.”
In Tunis and Cairo, Benghazi and Dara’a, and later on – albeit in a very different context – in Madrid, New York, London, Santiago and elsewhere, millions of people from all walks of life have mobilized to make their own demands for human dignity. They have dusted off the promise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and demanded “freedom from fear and freedom from want,” the Declaration’s shorthand for all the civil, political, social economic and cultural rights it contains. They have reminded governments and international institutions alike that health care, and education and housing, and access to justice, are not commodities for sale to the few, but rather rights, guaranteed to everyone, everywhere, without discrimination.
In 2011, the very idea of “power” shifted. During the course of this extraordinary year, it was wielded not just by mighty institutions in marble buildings, but increasingly by ordinary men, women, and even children, courageously standing up to demand their rights. In the Middle East and North Africa, many thousands have paid with their lives, and tens of thousands have been injured, besieged, tortured, detained, and threatened, but their newfound determination to demand their rights has meant they are no longer willing to accept injustice.
Although we must mourn the lives of many, including — just in recent days – during the remorseless assault on various towns and cities in Syria, in renewed excessive use of force in Cairo and in efforts to subvert the elections taking place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we also have cause to celebrate.
The message of this unexpected global awakening was carried in the first instance not by the satellites of major media conglomerates, or conferences, or other traditional means – although these all played a role — but by the dynamic and irrepressible surge of social media.
The results have been startling.
By the end of this first year of the global awakening, we have already seen peaceful and successful elections in Tunisia and, earlier this week, in Egypt — where the turn-out for the first truly democratic elections there for decades has exceeded everybody’s expectations, despite the shocking upsurge in violence in Tahrir Square.
Today, as in the past, editorial and financial factors – as well as access – determine whether or not protests, and repression of protests, are televised or reported in newspapers around the world. But, wherever it happens, you can now guarantee it will be tweeted on Twitter, posted on Facebook, broadcast on Youtube, and uploaded onto the internet. Governments no longer hold the ability to monopolize the dissemination of information and censor what it says.
Instead we are seeing real lives in real struggle, broadcast in real time – and it is in many ways an exhilarating sight.
In sum, in 2011, human rights went viral.
On Human Rights Day 2011, I urge everyone, everywhere to join in the internet and social media campaign my office has launched to help more people know, demand and defend their human rights. It is a campaign that should be maintained so long as human rights abuses continue.
Message From The Director-General of UNESCO
The year 2011 is a turning point in the defence and promotion of human rights. In the Arab world, millions of people took to the street in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere to assert their rights and demand change. Young activists and ordinary citizens did the same in Chile, Greece and cities such as Madrid, Jerusalem and New York, calling for more freedom and social equality.
Courageous men and women struggle daily for justice, freedom and dignity and against discrimination and the denial of their rights. They come up against all forms of violence and repression. They use new media to state their views and rally together, so no-one may claim to know naught of their struggle. This Day affords an opportunity to transmit their message and to give them support.
The Arab Spring movement has given us great hope. It is indeed our greatest hope for democratic progress since the fall of the Berlin Wall hope that must not be dashed. We know that such changes take time. Observance of human rights is a battle to be won each day. This is true of respect for the rights of women in particular. Their involvement in those acts of civil resistance has revealed their aspiration for greater autonomy. Their rights must not be trampled underfoot any more. They and all justice-loving citizens regard the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted on 10 December 1948, as the roadmap for the years ahead.
The observance of human rights and the requirement that they be given effect require us to conduct a thorough examination of our conscience. Whenever human rights are on the retreat, in our cities’ streets and in the corridors of administrative bodies, the decline is universal. Whatever the circumstances or complexity of the challenges that we face, the observance of human rights is not negotiable. It rests on quality education that disseminates the values of tolerance and understanding. Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of this struggle.
On 9 December 2011, the eve of Human Rights Day, UNESCO will award the UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize to Mr Khaled Abu Awwad (Palestine) and Ms Anarkali Honaryar (Afghanistan), two outstanding human rights defenders. Mr Khaled Abu Awwad works to promote reconciliation among Palestinian and Israeli families that have lost close friends and relations to violence in the Middle East. Ms Anarkali Honaryar struggles to improve conditions for women and minority groups in Afghanistan.
Human rights are vested in each person and bring us together, our differences notwithstanding. The aspiration to freedom and human dignity is universal, and no one may invoke cultural diversity in order to infringe them or limit their scope. This strong message, keynote of the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, the 10th anniversary of which is marked this year, is our guide now and for a long time yet.
JOIN THE PARTY!
All human rights belong to each and every one of us without exception. They unite us as one global family.
A family with the same ideals and values, and with a shared birthday – Human Rights Day.
Join us in celebrating this day when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was created.
Make a wish (from the list below) that everyone can enjoy these rights.
To make your wish, go to www.CelebrateHumanRights.org
My wish is….
- …that we are all free and equal
- …for an end to discrimination
- …the right to life, liberty & security for all
- …abolish slavery
- …abolish torture
- …that everyone is protected by the law
- …that we are all equal before the law
- …access to justice for all
- …an end to arbitrary detention
- …that everybody has the right to a fair trial
- …we are all innocent until proven guilty
- …we all have a right to privacy
- …we are all free to live in and return to our home countries
- …everybody has access to refuge in a safe country
- …everyone has a right to a nationality
- …the right to marriage and family for all
- …everyone has the right to own property
- …freedom of thought, conscience and belief for all
- …the right to freedom of expression and opinion for all
- …to peaceful assembly
- …that everyone has a right to participate in government
- …the right to universal social security
- …equal pay for equal work for all
- …the right to rest and leisure for all
- …food, shelter and health care for all
- …the right to an education for all
- …the right to the arts, culture, and science
- …for a fair and free world
- …to develop as a person through work in the community
- …that no one can take away my rights
United Nations Human Rights Office Celebrating Human Rights Day – 10 December calls for the use of social media to demand and defend our rights.
On December 10th, the world observes United Nations’ Human Rights Day. The date was chosen to commemorate the adoption, by the UN General Assembly in 1948, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: the first global enunciation of human rights.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948, was the result of the experience of the Second World War. With the end of that war, and the creation of the United Nations, the international community vowed never again to allow atrocities like those of that conflict happen again. World leaders decided to complement the UN Charter with a road map to guarantee the rights of every individual everywhere. The document they considered, and which would later become the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was taken up at the first session of the General Assembly in 1946. The Assembly reviewed this draft Declaration on Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms and transmitted it to the Economic and Social Council “for reference to the Commission on Human Rights for consideration . . . in its preparation of an international bill of rights.” The Commission, at its first session early in 1947, authorized its members to formulate what it termed “a preliminary draft International Bill of Human Rights”. Later the work was taken over by a formal drafting committee, consisting of members of the Commission from eight States, selected with due regard for geographical distribution.
In 1950, on the second anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, students at the UN International Nursery School in New York viewed a poster of the historic document. After adopting it on December 10, 1948, the UN General Assembly had called upon all Member States to publicize the text of the Declaration and “to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories.” (UN Photo)
The Commission on Human Rights was made up of 18 members from various political, cultural and religious backgrounds. Eleanor Roosevelt, widow of American President Franklin D. Roosevelt, chaired the UDHR drafting committee. With her were René Cassin of France, who composed the first draft of the Declaration, the Committee Rapporteur Charles Malik of Lebanon, Vice-Chairman Peng Chung Chang of China, and John Humphrey of Canada, Director of the UN’s Human Rights Division, who prepared the Declaration’s blueprint. But Mrs. Roosevelt was recognized as the driving force for the Declaration’s adoption.
The Commission met for the first time in 1947. In her memoirs, Eleanor Roosevelt recalled:
“Dr. Chang was a pluralist and held forth in charming fashion on the proposition that there is more than one kind of ultimate reality. The Declaration, he said, should reflect more than simply Werstern ideas and Dr. Humphrey would have to be eclectic in his approach. His remark, though addressed to Dr. Humprhey, was really directed at Dr. Malik, from whom it drew a prompt retort as he expounded at some length the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas. Dr. Humphrey joined enthusiastically in the discussion, and I remember that at one point Dr. Chang suggested that the Secretariat might well spend a few months studying the fundamentals of Confucianism!”
The final draft by Cassin was handed to the Commission on Human Rights, which was being held in Geneva. The draft declaration sent out to all UN member States for comments became known as the Geneva draft.
The first draft of the Declaration was proposed in September 1948 with over 50 Member States participating in the final drafting. By its resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948, the General Assembly, meeting in Paris, adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with eight nations abstaining from the vote but none dissenting. Hernán Santa Cruz of Chile, member of the drafting sub-Committee, wrote:
“I perceived clearly that I was participating in a truly significant historic event in which a consensus had been reached as to the supreme value of the human person, a value that did not originate in the decision of a worldly power, but rather in the fact of existing—which gave rise to the inalienable right to live free from want and oppression and to fully develop one’s personality. In the Great Hall…there was an atmosphere of genuine solidarity and brotherhood among men and women from all latitudes, the like of which I have not seen again in any international setting.”
The entire text of the UDHR was composed in less than two years. At a time when the world was divided into Eastern and Western blocks, finding a common ground on what should make the essence of the document proved to be a colossal task.
About Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Who we are
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) represents the world’s commitment to universal ideals of human dignity. We have a unique mandate from the international community to promote and protect all human rights.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights is the principal human rights official of the United Nations. The High Commissioner heads OHCHR and spearheads the United Nations’ human rights efforts. We offer leadership, work objectively, educate and take action to empower individuals and assist States in upholding human rights. We are a part of the United Nations Secretariat with our headquarters in Geneva.
The Office’s priorities are set out in two key strategic documents: the OHCHR Plan of Action and its Strategic Management Plan 2010-2011. These priorities include greater country engagement, working closely with our partners at the country and local levels, in order to ensure that international human rights standards are implemented on the ground; a stronger leadership role for the High Commissioner; and closer partnerships with civil society and United Nations agencies.
United Nations human rights system
We also support the work of the United Nations human rights mechanisms, such as the Human Rights Council and the core treaty bodies set up for monitoring State Parties’ compliance with international human rights treaties, promote the right to development, coordinate United Nations human rights education and public information activities, and strengthens human rights across the United Nations system. We work to ensure the enforcement of universally recognized human rights norms, including through promoting both the universal ratification and implementation of the major human rights treaties and respect for the rule of law.
We have an office at United Nations headquarters in New York and offices in numerous countries and regions. In addition to the Executive Office of the High Commissioner and a number of units that report to the Deputy High Commissioner, OHCHR has two major divisions and four branches.
To implement our comprehensive mandate, we employ more than 850 staff (last update in April 2007), based in Geneva and New York and in 11 country offices and seven regional offices around the world, including a workforce of some 240 international human rights officers serving in UN peace missions. We are funded from the United Nations regular budget and from voluntary contributions from Member States, intergovernmental organizations, foundations and individuals.
> United Nations (UN).
The United Nations was established on 24 October 1945 by 51 countries committed to preserving peace through international cooperation and collective security. Today, nearly every nation in the world belongs to the UN: membership totals 192 countries.
When States become Members of the United Nations, they agree to accept the obligations of the UN Charter, an international treaty that sets out basic principles of international relations. According to the Charter, the UN has four purposes:
- to maintain international peace and security;
- to develop friendly relations among nations;
- to cooperate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights;
- and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations.