International Human Rights Day: Its history and significance

Every year since 1948, December 10 is observed as International Human Rights Day. The day finds its origin in the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations General Assembly.

The UDHR is the ethos that calls for upholding human rights at all times. It states the inalienable rights that each and every human regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status is entitled to.

As such, International Human Rights Day stands for the inalienable rights enshrined in the aforementioned Universal Declaration.

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How did International Human Rights Day come into being?

International Human Rights Day was formally mooted in the year 1950 after the UN General Assembly passed resolution 423 (V). All the states and organisations were invited to adopt December 10 as the official date to celebrate the occasion.

Background of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

The UDHR was proclaimed as common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. It further stated that all individuals and societies must strive by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance.

The universal declaration of human rights is available in 500 languages. It is the most translated document in the world.

It is to be noted that the declaration is not a binding document. However, as former US diplomat Eleanor Roosevelt remarks, “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home — so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. […] Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”

Hence it seems unarguably true that all countries must strive to uphold basic human rights, which the document states.

Human Rights Day 2021 theme: Equality

The High Commissioner and his office are responsible for conducting and coordination of Human Rights Day events every year. Each year the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) decides the theme to be emphasised on, as a part of the Human Rights Day celebration.

‘Equality’ has been chosen as the theme for this year, since it aligns with the future plans of the UN as part of the Agenda 2030. The agenda focuses on human rights centric development, which states that equality, inclusion and non-discrimination is the best way forward. The theme also aligns with the shared framework of Leaving No One Behind.

Article 1 of the UDHR states, “All humans are born free and equal in dignity and Rights”, which basically calls for equality among human beings. It aims at addressing issues and coming up with solutions to counter the long-standing discrimination faced by various vulnerable communities, including people of African descent, the LGBTQAI community, women, migrant workers and people with disabilities among others.

At a time when the world has witnessed a slant towards fascism, with nations across continents dealing with grave human rights violations, this day stands as a symbol for what the human community should strive for.

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