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Reflecting on 75 Years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

According to Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, despite the persistence of conflicts and crises, human rights concepts have not failed.

Seventy-five years ago, the UN General Assembly convened in Paris to ratify the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a cornerstone of the post-World War II international framework. 

Crafted as “a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations,” it aimed to establish fundamental rights amid a world recovering from war’s devastation.

Ideals and Realities:

Volker Türk, UN human rights chief, reflects that although conflicts and crises persist, the principles of human rights have not failed. 

The relatively concise document comprises a preamble and 30 articles, asserting the equality and dignity of all individuals, regardless of race, religion, or status.

Core Rights and Freedoms:

The Declaration articulates the right to life, liberty, and security, condemning slavery, torture, and cruel treatment. 

It champions equality before the law, fair trials, and the right to seek asylum from persecution, guaranteeing freedom of religion, expression, peaceful assembly, and education.

Inspired by the devastation of two world wars and the Holocaust, Eleanor Roosevelt chaired the drafting committee, ensuring global representation. 

Despite colonial rule, the declaration was envisioned to secure rights universally, championed by smaller nations against the powerful.

Impact and Legacy:

Though not legally binding, the Declaration’s principles have influenced numerous national laws and serve as the foundation for international human rights law. 

It has inspired over 70 global and regional human rights treaties, fueling movements for decolonization, anti-apartheid, and global freedom.

Contemporary Challenges:

The 75th anniversary arrives amidst global conflicts challenging human rights: the Israel-Hamas conflict, the Russia-Ukraine war, internal strife in Myanmar and Sudan, among others. 

UN Secretary-General António Guterres laments the misuse and neglect of the declaration for political motives.

A Vision for Tomorrow:

Despite exploitation and disregard, the declaration remains a testament to the possibility of a global human rights vision. 

Türk emphasizes its enduring relevance and calls upon leaders to uphold these inherent rights, emphasizing the peril of ignoring this universal truth.

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