Seventy-five years ago, on this significant day, the United Nations General Assembly took a historic step by approving the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Paris. This monumental declaration laid the foundation for the international order that emerged after the devastating horrors of World War II. The declaration was boldly proclaimed as “a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations,” signifying a united commitment to protect and uphold the fundamental rights of every individual.
The Universal Declaration’s Vision
In practice, the journey hasn’t always been smooth over the subsequent decades. As we mark the 75th anniversary, Volker Türk, the U.N. Human Rights Chief, acknowledges that the world faces challenging times with conflicts and crises. However, he steadfastly insists that “human rights have not failed.” The Universal Declaration serves as a beacon of hope, even in these somber moments of history.
This relatively compact document consists of a preamble and 30 articles that establish fundamental rights and freedoms. Article 1 boldly proclaims that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It reinforces the idea that every individual is entitled to these rights “without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status.”
A Legacy of Inclusivity
The Universal Declaration enshrines not only the rights to freedom of religion, opinion, and expression but also the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. It emphasizes the importance of equality before the law, a fair and public hearing, and the right to seek asylum from persecution. Importantly, it has been a pivotal document inspiring and shaping more than 70 human rights treaties worldwide.
The Declaration’s Impact on LGBTQ+ Rights
This declaration’s legacy has extended to the LGBTQ+ community, serving as a foundational document for the fight for equality and non-discrimination. While it doesn’t explicitly mention LGBTQ+ rights, its principles have provided a solid platform for advocates to push for equal rights regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Ongoing Struggle for Equality
Today, as we celebrate the 75th anniversary, we must acknowledge that human rights face challenges worldwide. Conflicts in the Middle East, Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and internal conflicts in Myanmar and Sudan are just some examples. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres highlights that the Universal Declaration has been both misused and ignored at times, raising concerns about its effectiveness.
Despite these challenges, Amnesty International reminds us that the declaration stands as proof that a global vision for human rights is not only possible but also necessary. Volker Türk insists that human rights are inherent to every human being and leaders who ignore this truth put their people at risk.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, at 75, remains a testament to humanity’s commitment to equality and dignity for all. While the journey towards universal human rights is fraught with challenges, this document continues to inspire and guide the fight for a more just and equal world, including the ongoing struggle for LGBTQ+ rights. It is a reminder that, in the face of adversity, the pursuit of justice and equality must remain unwavering.