Human Rights Day 2023

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“Now, more than ever, it is time for human rights,” said UN Human Rights Chief, Volker Türk, ahead of a two-day high-level event on human rights to be held at Palais des Nations, the UN’s home in Geneva, Switzerland, and connecting online to hubs in Addis Abeba, Bangkok and Panama.

Heads of State and Government, civil society actors and human rights defenders, business leaders, sportspeople, artists and economists alike will converge on the city to craft together a vision for the future of human rights. It represents the culmination of a year-long campaign, Human Rights 75, hosted by UN Human Rights aimed at rejuvenating the spirit that led to the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by global consensus at the General Assembly on 10 December 1948.

That day, 75 years ago, representatives from different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world drafted the UDHR, a set of universal, indivisible and inalienable rights recognizing the equal dignity and worth of everyone.

The UDHR was a milestone in the history of human rights; it was the first time that the international community agreed on a set of common values and recognized that human rights are inherent to everyone, everywhere. The drafting of the Universal Declaration was also ground-breaking in the involvement of women in the shaping of its language and the inclusion of certain social and cultural rights, as well as input from representatives from what is now known as the global south.

All throughout 2023, UN Human Rights’ initiative has placed a spotlight on a wide range of human rights issues, enshrined in the UDHR, in need of concrete and urgent action from States and other duty bearers. That monthly thematic focus was accompanied by national and regional dialogues, as well as a Push for Pledges to encourage ground-breaking commitments by States and other actors towards tangible improvements in people’s human rights.

“As we mark the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, let's remember that it's not just a historical document but a living testament to our shared humanity—a timeless guide,” Türk said in his message for Human Rights Day.

UN Human Rights has pushed for the universal ratification of core human rights treaties that have established the legal obligations by States to achieve the international norms and standards inspired by the UDHR and make human rights a reality for everyone, everywhere.

“Despite conflicts that may divide us, it’s in the pursuit of peace, justice, and equality that we discover our common ground,” Türk added. “Together, we can envision a future where every individual’s rights are safeguarded, conflicts are resolved through dialogue, and peace prevails.”

Although humanity has pushed the frontiers of medicine, technology, the environment, social and political expression, economic and labour laws and other breakthroughs in the past 75 years, Türk also pointed out that the world today was experiencing levels of violent conflict not seen since the end of the Second World War, with deepening inequalities, increasing discrimination and hate speech, impunity, growing divisions and polarization, and a climate emergency.

“This underscores all the more the need for us to take stock, learn lessons, and craft a vision for the future together based on human rights. The Universal Declaration provides a promise – that we are all born equal in dignity and rights – and a blueprint for action. This event is a moment of deep reflection to seek common solutions together, centred on human rights,” he stressed.

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