“We stand today at the threshold of a great event both in the life of the United Nations and in the life of mankind, that is the approval by the General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recommended by the Third Committee. This declaration may well become the international Magna Carta of all men everywhere.”
- Eleanor Roosevelt
Adopted 72 years ago, the UN Declaration on Human Rights marked a milestone in the fight to protect human rights across the world. The UDHR was adopted marking an end to the horrors, atrocities and abuses of the Holocaust and the Second World War. It created a paradigm shift in the thought process of political powers across the world towards the rights of human beings from a mere quest to gain control.
Human rights are rights that every individual is entitled to irrespective of their caste, creed, economic, social status or place of origin. In 2020, the theme for the Human Rights Day is “Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights.” It relates to the fights against the pandemic and the need to build back a society ensuring human rights as central to recovery efforts.
The past few years have witnessed the rise of human rights activists such as Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai, Kailash Satyarthi, Sunitha Krishnan, Melanie Campbell, Chad Griffin, to name a few. Movements including the Black Lives Matter, triggered by gross human rights violations shook the world the past year. The increasing concerns against discrimination, the acceptance of the LGBTQ community, indicate the impact of such movements and the UDHR is effectuating and protecting human rights.
Human rights have become central to the global conversations concerning peace, development and security. The implementation of international treaties has significantly improved. Additionally, beyond the UDHR, laws have been extended to protect the rights of children, women, victims of torture, migrants and persons with disabilities. Women’s rights are recognised and acknowledged as fundamental human rights. The International Criminal Court continues to bring justice to victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The rights of the LGBTQ community have been placed on international agenda. Victims of trafficking crimes are regarded as entitled to all human rights and no longer treated as criminals or excluded from the society. The freedom of speech and expression has been raised to a pedestal and is considered to be of utmost regard.
Despite the grand progress on the front of human rights, there still remain issues that require attention and improvement including the right to clean food, water and basic sanitation, the importance of which as basic human rights has been heightened by the ongoing pandemic. The rights of older persons are also an area to be addressed by the international arena. There is a need to end discriminations of all kind, address the inequalities, promote sustainable development.
We are all in this together. From individuals to governments, from civil society and grass-roots communities to the private sector, everyone has a role in building a post-COVID world that is better for present and future generations. It is our duty to ensure that the voices of the most affected and vulnerable inform the recovery efforts. As the fight against human rights violations continue, let us hope that at least some of the struggles are addressed and remedied in a post-COVID world.