Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Human Rights Day

On December 10th, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Following this historic act the Assembly called upon all Member countries to publicise the text of the Declaration and "to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories."

The Declaration was adopted at Palais de Chaillot, Paris, having arisen from the experience of the Second World War. It was the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled. It currently consists of 30 articles which have been elaborated in subsequent international treaties, regional human rights instruments, national constitutions and laws. The Declaration is however not set in stone and groups such as Amnesty International and War Resisters International have advocated for "The Right to Refuse to Kill" to be added to the Declaration. The Guinness Book of Records describes the Declaration as the "Most Translated Document" in the world.

The Declaration, along with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, forms the International Bill of Human Rights. In 1976, following ratification by a sufficient number of individual nations, the Bill took on the force of international law.

Today also marks the awarding of the five-yearly United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights and the Nobel Peace Prize. This year the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights will be presented to Ms. Louise Arbour (former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights), Mr. Ramsey Clark (former United States Attorney General and lawyer), Dr. Carolyn Gomes (Jamaican Human Rights Defender) and Dr. Denis Mukwege (founder, director and chief surgeon of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo). Human Rights Watch. Mrs. Benazir Bhutto (Pakistani politician) and Sr. Dorothy Stang (US/Brazilian Human Rights Defender) will be awarded the prize posthumously.

The following videos are thoroughly worth the time to watch:
UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon
The High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay

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