From the Arab Spring, to marriage equality, to the women who won the Nobel Peace Prize for their work on empowering women, this has been a banner year for human rights. Starting in Tunisia, then swelling through Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Libya, a clarion call for freedom swept across Facebook and Twitter as protesters demanded the basic rights and freedoms every human being deserves. Today is Human Rights Day, and as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay pointed out, “In 2011, human rights went viral.”
Sixty-three years ago today — on December 10, 1948 — the U.N.General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration outlines the fundamental freedoms that we are all entitled to– no matter where we live, what we do, or who we choose to live with.
“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin?” former First Lady and First U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Eleanor Roosevelt pondered in 1958. “In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. 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.”
Take a look at this video which celebrates how far we have come — but still reminds us of how far we have yet to go to in the quest for human rights for all.
As the Declaration says, respect for human rights and human dignity “is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”
Photo credit: screen shot from video courtesy Office of U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights
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