Standing Up For Human Rights For Everyone

December 10 marks the Human Rights Day, a day designed by the U.N. to commemorate the U.N. General Assembly adopting, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the UDHR). The UDHR is a milestone human rights declaration affirming human dignity and inalienable rights of everyone. The UDHR inspired other international treaties, constitutions and human rights laws worldwide. It also continues to be the most translated international legal document in the world.

The UDHR was a direct response to the Nazi atrocities that soaked the soil with blood across Europe and beyond. The historic document is a direct affirmation that the human rights identified in the UDHR are the rights of everyone everywhere and cannot be curtailed by dictatorships spreading propaganda and ordering annihilation of people they deem as not worthy of protection. The UDHR must be celebrated and implemented to ensure that universal human rights it affirms are truly universal.

This year’s theme for the Human Rights Day is “Youth Standing Up for Human Rights.” It aims to “celebrate the potential of youth as constructive agents of change, amplify their voices, and engage a broad range of global audiences in the promotion and protection of rights” and “encourage, galvanize, and showcase how youth all over the world stand up for rights and against racism, hate speech, bullying, discrimination, and climate change, to name a few.” It is crucial to ensure that the next generation, and subsequent generations who do not have memories of the atrocities that led to the UDHR, the Nazi atrocities and the loss of life they caused, are fully engaged in protecting human rights for all. Indeed, in recent years we have witnessed the emergence of more and more young people speaking out about the issues they are passionate about. Examples include Malala, even as a teenager, standing up for the right to education for girls and working to “break down the barriers preventing more than 130 million girls around the world from going to school” or the Genocide80Twenty, a project run by pupils at Hampton School, London, UK, raising awareness, educating and engaging others on the issue of genocide. Their voices should be an inspiration to the next generation that you are never too young to change the world, the power comes from within. 

This year’s commemoration of the Human Rights Day is the last one of this decade, leaving a single decade before the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should be achieved. The SDGs include several human rights-related goals. As the new decade (and the last for the achievement of the 2030 goals) begins in January, it is crucial to critically assess how we are doing in making the goals a reality. More importantly, it is also paramount to consider what needs to change to ensure that the SDGs will be achieved by 2030.  

Among others, ending poverty in all its forms (SDG 1) will not happen if families struggle to make ends meet, despite working full-time jobs or sometimes multiple jobs. Ending hunger (SDG 2) means nothing if food is being wasted every day while children have to go to sleep hungry. Ensuring healthy lives (SDG 3) will not be achieved if medical care is reserved for the rich only. Ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education (SDG 4) means little if children must go to work rather than school. Achieving gender equality and empowerment for all women and girls (SDG 5) will not happen if physical and/or sexual partner violence continues unopposed. Promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development (SDG 16) will never be achievable if we do not treat others with the human dignity we all deserve.