We live by the principle that all persons are born free and equal with inherent human rights. This principle – a product of foresight and humility by those who came before us – was enshrined 75 years ago today by the UN General Assembly when it adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR, now endorsed by nearly every country in the world, enumerates the human rights that must be universally protected, and sets a common standard of liberty and dignity for all people, of all nations.
As we look at the first 75 years of the UDHR, we recognize what we’ve accomplished in this time, but also know that much work remains. Too often, authorities fail to protect or – worse – trample on human rights and fundamental freedoms, often in the name of security or to maintain their grip on power. Whether arresting and wrongfully detaining journalists and dissidents, restricting an individual’s freedom of religion or belief, or committing atrocities and acts of genocide, violations and abuses of human rights undermine progress made in support of the UDHR. In the face of these actions, we must press for greater human rights protection and promote accountability whenever we see violations or abuses of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
On its 75th anniversary, the UDHR must continue to be our guiding light as we strive to create the world in which we want to live. Its message is as important today as it was 75 years ago: human rights belong to everyone, everywhere.