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UN celebrates 70th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, says the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has inspired millions of people to demand their rights and contest the forces of oppression, exploitation, discrimination and injustice.

António Guterres
Secretary-General António Guterres. Photo credit: UN /Mark Garten

Guterres said this on Monday, December 10, 2018 in Marrakech, Morocco, at a special event to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The event was organised on the sidelines of the Intergovernmental Conference on Migration during which the Global Compact for migration was unanimously adopted by the participating 164 UN member-states.

He said that the safety articles of the Declaration constitute practical measures for achieving peace and inclusive sustainable development.

He noted that it had given birth to movements of all kinds from indigenous peoples to persons with disabilities.

He, however, observed that 70 years after the declaration, the violation of human rights persisted, ranging from torture, execution, extra-judicial killings, detention without trial, among others.

Guterres said that the solution to societies’ problems lay in “staying bound to our shared commitment to uphold human rights and the inherent dignity and equality of each human being’’.

Also, Mrs Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, described the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration adopted on Monday as a vital human rights document.

Bachelet said the adoption of the Compact demonstrated that multilateral cooperation resulted in better outcomes than isolationism and disdain for others.

According to her, the Compact is a reminder that the human rights of all migrants must be “respected, protected and fulfilled at all times.

“At a time of heightened anxiety and the changing realities of a globalised world, when some view migrants as convenient scapegoats for political gain, the Compact reminds us that the human rights of all migrants must be “respected, protected and fulfilled at all times.

“The Global Compact inspires us to greater international cooperation and collective efforts to end conflicts, reduce inequalities and ensure greater freedom and opportunity for all.’’

She recalled that 70 years ago, the global community recognised, for the first time, that all people had universal human rights and promised to promote and protect those rights.

She listed them as the right to equal protection of the law, right to life, liberty and security of person, the right to education, healthcare, food, shelter and social security.

Others are the right to be free from any form of discrimination, the right to freedom of expression and the right to privacy, the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

On the list also are the right to due process and fair trial; the right to be free from torture, and from unlawful or arbitrary arrest or detention.

According to her, “the force of these and other fundamental rights binds us together as human beings, regardless of sex, race, belief, sexual orientation, nationality, migration status or any other factor.

“We share a common destiny on this planet where we live. We share the core values and principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration, which are essential to the maintenance of our mutual peace, prosperity, and sustainable development.’’

She explained that lessons learnt from the World Wars made it imperative to draft treaties and conventions that would create conditions for more enduring peace.

Bachelet noted that great progress had since been made as women and men had been inspired by the Universal Declaration, to demand their human rights.

According to her, hungry, desperate human beings seeking safety and dignity necessary to life are not a hostile invasion or a catastrophic tidal wave.

“They are victims, not perpetrators; they are people just like us — tired and in need. And they are moving – many of them – because they have no other realistic choice.

“Although no state is bound to accept every person who arrives at its borders, all human beings are bound by the imperative of compassion.

“Blood has one colour. Pain is the same, no matter what language we scream in. We are equal, all of us — regardless of the location of our birth, our gender, our race, ethnicity or belief, our disability status or our possession of specific administrative documents. ‘’

She described the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a living document, adding that the universal values contained in it could safeguard the world.

“Universal Declaration is a living document, just as powerful and valid today as it was in the ashes and rubble of global destruction.

“May it guide the world’s nations to greater peace, dignity and justice in the years to come,’’ she said.

By Nkechi Okoronkwo

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