On December 10th, the United Nations celebrates the International Human Rights Day as an annual reminder of adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The adoption of this document has been fundamental to globally proclaim the inalienable rights of any human being on this planet. Race, color, religion, sex, language, opinion, origin, property, birth, etc. – human rights transcend all those aspects that have been used to discriminate and exclude people on our planet up until this day. Since this concerns fundamental aspects of life, it is amazing to note that it is the most translated document in the world.
Unfortunately, human rights are not equally respected in this world although outlined in this declaration. It is therefore of utmost importance to remind ourselves of its content and implications for our daily life. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was written for all humanity to empower all of us. Its violation in some part of the earth is a violation against all of humanity. Only if we take this document seriously, this world will experience universally shared values, dignity and justice. Furthermore, all those aspects will lead to sustainable development which goes hand in hand with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Unsustainability means that someone´s rights are violated. Even though we are often not aware of it, that violation puts us all at greater risk.
Obviously, people in, for example, developed countries experience that reality less than fourth world countries. However, even though we don´t experience the consequences immediately, it doesn´t make the violation and long-term implications less severe. It is our shared responsibility to live, share and insist on the Human Rights Declaration each and every day. If we like it or not – we are all part of ONE humanity that is ONE big community. We have to start acting on behalf of our community and help those who are in need amongst us. How do we do that?
“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. […] 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.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
This beautiful quote by Eleanor Roosevelt describes it very well where universal human rights begin, but also end. If we as individuals don´t uphold human rights in our life, if we don´t act and live by that, we fail the rest of the world. We fail to exist as ONE humanity and ONE big community. Humanity is called to uphold its standards, the equal dignity and worth of every person. Fully aware that this isn´t the reality right now, we need to keep striving and chasing after the full implementation of those rights on the whole planet. Only if Human Rights are fully implemented, humanity will experience lasting peace and sustainable development.
Lastly, it is crucial for the more privileged among us – those who enjoy their human rights every day – to stand up for those who are violated when exercising their rights. It is our responsibility and privilege to push our governments towards equality, justice and freedom so that the universal human rights actually become universally exercised without punishment. It is not the fault of those who are trying to exercise their human rights to be restricted in that regard. It is the negligence of those who enjoy human rights and who are not willing to share it with others.
On December 10th, the International Human Rights Day is celebrated annually. Looking back on the progress that has been made, it is definitely worth a celebration. However, one major reason of its existence is to remind ourselves that we are not fully there yet and need to keep chasing after that very fundamental aspect of humanity – every human being deserves to be treated with dignity, equality and freedom. There is only one Universal Human Rights Declaration. It belongs to and should be exercised by all of humanity!
We the members of the Vincentian Family could include the defense and promotion of the human rights in everything we do. We cannot forget that the poorest communities and the most isolated human beings -the most abandoned- are usually the most vulnerable victims of the systemic violation of the human rights!
Niagara University Graduate Student
Congregation of the Mission UN Office