Human Rights Day is celebrated on December 10, 2016. The date was chosen to honor the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption and proclamation on 10 December 1948, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the first global enunciation of human rights and one of the first major achievements of the new United Nations. In 1950, the Assembly passed resolution 423 (V), inviting all States and interested organizations to observe 10 December of each year as Human Rights Day.
Human Rights Day is normally marked both by high-level political conferences and meetings and by cultural events and exhibitions dealing with human rights issues. In addition, it is traditionally on 10 December that the five-yearly United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights and Nobel Peace Prize are awarded. Many governmental and nongovernmental organizations active in the human rights field also schedule special events to commemorate the day, as do many civil and social-cause organizations.
The Declaration of Human Rights arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled. It consists of 30 articles which have been elaborated in subsequent international treaties, regional human rights instruments, national constitutions and laws. The Guinness Book of Records describes the UDHR as the “Most Translated Document” in the world.
While not a treaty itself, the Declaration of Human Rights was explicitly adopted for the purpose of defining the meaning of the words “fundamental freedoms” and “human rights” appearing in the United Nations Charter, which is binding on all member states.
For this reason the Universal Declaration is a fundamental constitutive document of the United Nations. Many international lawyers, in addition, believe that the Declaration forms part of customary international law[ and is a powerful tool in applying diplomatic and moral pressure to governments that violate any of its articles.
In South Africa, Human Rights Day is celebrated on 21 March, in remembrance of the Sharpeville massacre which took place on 21 March 1960. This massacre occurred as a result of protests against the Apartheid regime in South Africa.
The first and foremost way to celebrate Human Rights Day is to take some time to appreciate the effect that this resolution has had on your world and life. Look around your neighborhood and see the effects on a local scale, the charitable works being done to promote the health and well-being of those who are less fortunate.
The next step is to get out there and make a difference, whether it’s simply making a donation to one of the dozens of organizations that work towards this global purpose, or organizing a donation drive of your own to help out those organizations fighting the good fight.
Don’t think that your gestures have to be grand, simply gathering enough to put together a bunch of care packages of simple needs and necessities and handing them out amongst your local homeless can go a long way to helping to support this cause. The need is large, but is made of limitless minor actions that can lead to a world-wide change in quality of life.
This year, Human Rights Day calls on everyone to stand up for someone’s rights! Many of us are fearful about the way the world is heading. Disrespect for basic human rights continues to be wide-spread in all parts of the globe. Extremist movements subject people to horrific violence. Messages of intolerance and hatred prey on our fears.
Humane values are under attack. We must reaffirm our common humanity. Wherever we are, we can make a real difference in the street, in school, at work, in public transport; in the voting booth, on social media.
The time for this is now. “We the peoples” can take a stand for rights. And together, we can take a stand for more humanity. It starts with each of us. Step forward and defend the rights of a refugee or migrant, a person with disabilities, an LGBT person, a woman, a child, indigenous peoples, a minority group, or anyone else at risk of discrimination or violence.