Today is International Human Rights Day, when we consider for a moment the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This was adopted by the UN in 1948, and established basic rights as universal, a key concept for the world as it moved into a crucial period of post-war rebuilding, Cold War, and decolonization. It is a relatively brief document (as human rights instruments go), just 30 Articles. In the preamble it calls on the member nations of the UN to take “progressive measures…to secure their universal and effective recognition and acceptance.”
I looked around on our web site for examples of people who are claiming and defending their rights, to serve as examples of why basic human rights are still essential to fighting poverty 61 years later. Here are just three:
Gilma Molina Vasquez (El Salvador): Equality and dignity (Articles 1, 2, 7).
James Sarpong (Ghana): Right to own property (Article 17).
Ahmed Adam Yousif (Sudan): Right to life, liberty, and security (Article 3).
The creation of the UDHR was led by Eleanor Roosevelt. I have excerpted her famous quotation about it here. Even if you have read it before, it is worth considering today:
“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”