Monday, December 10, 2007

Human Rights Day 2007

Today is Human Rights Day, marking the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The theme for the coming year is “Dignity and justice for all of us”, which is meant to reinforce the idea of “vision of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as a commitment to universal dignity and justice.” In a ceremony today Ban Ki-moon, General Secretary of the United Nations, has promised that the coming year “would see all UN bodies taking part in a campaign ‘to promote the declaration's ideals and principles of justice and equality for everyone’.”

The UDHR itself is a “commitment to universal dignity and justice”, with a goal of ensuring the protection of human rights through the education of what human rights entail. In order to spread knowledge on the subject of human rights, the UDHR “is now available in over 360 languages and is the most translated document in the world – a testament to its universal nature and reach.” According to Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UDHR is “not a product of Western cultural values but a ‘composite synthesis’ of views derived from many backgrounds, regions and legal traditions.”

Human Rights day has set the stage for statements by several activist groups regarding the violation of human rights. In France, the government was criticized “for hosting a state visit by Libyan leader Muammar Kadhafi on the same day as the anniversary.” In China, Reporters Without Borders has complained that they had been banned from entering mainland China. In Russia, activists have used the day to bring forth accusations of human rights violations by President Vladimir Putin.

As Louise Arbour states, it is hard to “accept [that] there's any culture, religion or tradition that should supersede the fundamental principle that all human beings are born equal”. It is hoped that the continued work of the United Nations will ensure that all people are one day soon treated equally with equal rights; as the United Nations and all member nations work towards this goal, it is important that activist groups continue to report human rights violations, keeping people aware of, and fighting against, these transgressions not just on Human Rights Day, but throughout the entire year.

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