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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Respect, Protect: HUMAN RIGHTS as active verbs for all, forever

Today is 
Human Rights Day
Editing by Carolyn Bennett

“The very essence of human rights is the equal dignity for everyone,” says United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Christof Heyns.

he future of human rights lies in our hands. We must all act when human rights are violated. States as well as individuals must take responsibility for the realization and effective protection of human rights.

Refugee CampsForced Homelessness
In marking the 20th year since a Vienna Declaration laid the ground for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Commissioner Navi Pillay lays out the state of human rights. “Women,” she says, “continue to suffer discrimination, violence and persecution; as do ethnic, racial and religious minorities and migrants”; and people of varieties of sexual orientations. “This shows how far we still have to go,” she says.

Internal conflicts continue to produce horrendous and widespread human rights abuses. Peaceful protests by people exercising, and calling for, their legitimate rights are being ruthlessly crushed by authorities virtually on a daily basis.
Internal, external

Changing and shifting populations  fueled by rising poverty, refugee movements and volatile global economics  make countering ‘fear of the other’ a priority.

  Human rights defenders who enter Tweets or Facebook posts can land in jail.

Armed drones are being deployed without due legal process for the remote targeting of individuals.
Killer USA drones
against world 

So-called ‘Killer robots’ – autonomous weapons systems that can select and hit a target without human intervention – are no longer science fiction, but a reality.  Their likely future deployment poses deeply troubling ethical and legal questions.

“Continued vigilance is needed to ensure that new technologies advance rather than destroy human rights. No matter the scale of these changes, existing international human rights law and international humanitarian law governing the conduct of armed conflict remain applicable.”
Homeless in Britain


nternational human rights law lays down obligations which States are bound to respect. By becoming parties to international treaties, States assume obligations and duties under international law to respect, to protect and to fulfill human rights. 
Homeless in USA
The obligation to respect means that States must refrain from interfering with or curtailing the enjoyment of human rights

The obligation to protect requires States to protect individuals and groups against human rights abuses. The obligation to fulfill means that States must take positive action to facilitate the enjoyment of basic human rights
Through ratification of international human rights treaties, Governments undertake to put into place domestic measures and legislation compatible with their treaty obligations and duties. Where domestic legal proceedings fail to address human rights abuses, mechanisms and procedures for individual complaints or communications are available at the regional and international levels to help ensure that international human rights standards are indeed respected, implemented, and enforced at the local level.


uman Rights Day is observed annually on this 10th day of December and commemorates the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today the UDHR turns 65.

When the General Assembly adopted the Declaration, with 48 states in favor and eight abstentions, it was proclaimed as a ‘common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations,’ toward which individuals and societies should ‘strive by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance.’

Although the Declaration with its broad range of political, civil, social, cultural and economic rights is not a binding document, it inspired more than 60 human rights instruments which together constitute an international standard of human rights.
Drafted in
aftermath of
World War II

Today the general consent of all United Nations Member States on the basic Human Rights laid down in the Declaration makes it even stronger and emphasizes the relevance of Human Rights in our daily lives. [UN High Commissioner for Human Rights]


Whereas 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,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of [hu]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,

Whereas it is essential, if [people are] 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,

U.S. diplomat and UDHR
Eleanor Roosevelt
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in cooperation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that 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 [End Preamble]

nding her Human Rights Day remarks, Commissioner Pillay says (and I agree wholeheartedly)

We can – and we must – do better [they we are doing]. The vision and goals formulated 20 years ago in Vienna are still valid. They are still worth fighting for now – over the next 20 years – and beyond.

Sources and notes

“A 20-20 Human Rights Vision Statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay for Human Rights Day, 10 December 2013, Media centre, Check the Universal Human Rights Index: http://uhri.ohchr.org/en

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, as the main United Nations rights official, and her Office play a major role in coordinating efforts for the yearly observation of Human Rights Day.

Human Rights Day is observed by the international community every year on 10 December. It commemorates the day in 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The formal inception of Human Rights Day dates from 1950, after the Assembly passed resolution 423 (V) inviting all States and interested organizations to adopt 10 December of each year as Human Rights Day. http://www.ohchr.org/EN/AboutUs/Pages/HumanRightsDay.aspx

International Human Rights Law: The international human rights movement was strengthened when the United Nations General Assembly adopted of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on 10 December 1948, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/InternationalLaw.aspx

At the 50th year mark, published by the United Nations Department of Public Information
DPI/1937/A--December 1997; Human Rights Page UN Home Page: Prepared for posting by the Information Technology Section (ITS) of the Department of Public Information, © United Nations 1997, http://www.un.org/rights/50/carta.htm


Together with its Preamble, 30 Articles comprise the Universal Declaration of Human Rights http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml


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