The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is 69 years old as of this month. It seems like it’s time to resurrect the spirit and driving energy of that ground-breaking document.
In the summer of 1946 the UN’s new commission laid the groundwork for an International Bill of Rights. This was soon renamed as a special Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Commission on Human Rights appointed a committee to compose the Declaration. That committee was famously chaired by former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Over the next two years, her committee debated and composed the proposed document then finished the draft in May of 1948.
Following discussions and additional proposals, the UN General Assembly approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in December of 1948. The agreement did not have any legal teeth until 1976, when the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was passed to enable most of the earlier declaration.
The original declaration was conceived and composed in the historical period following the Second World War. It had come to worldwide attention just how inhumanely people had been treated by the Axis Powers and other warring nations.
The Universal Declaration established that brotherhood, dignity, equality, and liberty were basic needs for all people. The human rights included the right to live, freedom of movement, and the necessity to prohibit slavery.
The agreement stated that basic liberties should be officially sanctioned. They include such freedoms as conscience, opinion, peaceful association, religion, and thinking. Special provisions are advocated regarding individual cultural, economic, health, and social wellbeing.
During the past several years, there has been a growing global and national trend to disregard many of the freedoms and rights outlined in the international document.
Several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have kept track of violations of human rights around the globe. The problems include the restrictions on freedom of expression in more than 77 nations, abuse and torture in more than 80 nations, unfair trials in more than 50 nations.
Furthermore, women and children remain marginalized in several cultures. There are more numerous attacks on free press. People who dissent or protest are forcibly silenced or killed. Democracy is under attack by ideologues, religionists, and tyrannical regimes on every continent. The underlying symptoms of repression and discrimination continue to poison civilization.
Realization of the goals set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights seems like a pipe dream. Freedoms and liberties once attained, are sometimes taken away. These threats are not limited to far-off nations, but are being threatened in the West and the United States.
In order to avoid being crushed under the “jackboots” of tyranny, injustice, and restrictions of human rights, it is important to be informed, responsible citizens. Human rights will probably always be under threat, consistent vigilance will curb those threats.
The Blue Jay of Happiness takes note of a statement by activist John Prendergast. “Slavery, racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry, subordination, and human rights abuse transform and adapt with the times.”