“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people…”

So begins the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a milestone document, representing a bulwark against abuse and tyranny. Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, it is both a response to horrors of WWII and a means by which such a nightmare could be avoided in future.

Article 1

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Over half a century has passed since these Universal Rights were laid out. As we sit here at the end of 2016, it is hard not to look round in despair at the extent to which they are under attack – not only from familiar despots in far flung corners of the world but also – and too often – from our own leaders.

Article 19

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

The Declaration does not contain anything particularly controversial. Indeed there is barely a sentence that you could reasonably argue against. But for those who wish to wield power, such inalienable rights can represent an inconvenience that must be swept aside.

For Leaders faced with the demonstrations of the so-called Arab Spring, for example, Article 20 (the right to freedom of peaceful assembly) proved intolerable. In the crackdowns that followed, Articles 9 (no-one shall be subject to arbitrary arrest) and 5 (no one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) were soon jettisoned, along with a whole host of others.

Article 3

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

In war, almost every right becomes a lottery. The right to education, the right to work, the right to freedom of religion, the right to equality before the law, all of these and more are regularly discarded in the chaos of conflict.

Article 28

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

December 10th is Human Rights Day. As we prepare for an uncertain 2017, with powerful elites sabre-rattling with willful disregard to the consequences for ordinary people, we are asking you to stand with us and demand that our leaders – the leaders of the free world – take this opportunity to recommit to the Declaration. Universal Human Rights are non-negotiable. We cannot afford to let them be pushed to one side when they become an irritation to the powerful.

Article 2

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Do you agree that Human Rights are everybody’s rights?

 

Human rights are everybody's rights.