“To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.” - Nelson Mandela
The UN General Assembly proclaimed 10 December as Human Rights Day in 1950, to ensure awareness of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. The UN General Assembly adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, France, on the December 10, 1948.
In 2013, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights marks 20 years since its establishment. The United Nations General Assembly created the mandate of High Commissioner for the promotion and protection of all human rights in December 1993. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted by the World Conference in 2003, marked the beginning of a renewed effort in the protection and promotion of human rights and is regarded as one of the most significant human rights documents of the past quarter century.
Many events on this commemoration day aim to educate people, especially children and teenagers, on their human rights and the importance of upholding these in their own communities and further afield. The day is also popular for organising protests to alert people of circumstances in parts of the world where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not recognised or respected, or where the upholding of these rights is not considered to be important. Cultural events are also organised to celebrate human rights through music, dance, drama or fine art.
This is a good day for writing letters of support, hope, inspiration and expressing opinions about human rights. It is timely to think of those who live in countries and under regimes where they are not permitted to freely express their opinions. Several organisations around the world are active in promoting human rights and giving these people unable to claim their rights a voice for doing so, albeit indirectly.
Nelson Mandela’s death recently reminded people all over the world of the struggle in South Africa where the battle for equality, and against racism, has resulted in a situation where new hope may flourish in a reinvented country. It is also timely to remember many other African countries where huge social and economic problems deny people may of the rights that in Western countries take for granted. The rights of women, people with disabilities, homosexuals and those belonging to religious minorities are also human rights and very often these individuals may be under multiple attacks every single day of their lives.