‘Abduction of Europa’ (Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Amsterdam - 1632 - fragment)

Friday, 6 December 2013

"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights." - 65th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (10 December 2013)

Eleanor Roosevelt, a driving force behind the Declaration 

On December 10, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), calling upon all member states to publicize 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 consists of a preamble and 30 articles, setting out a broad range of fundamental human rights and freedoms to which all men and women, everywhere in the world, are entitled, without any distinction. It was the first official international recognition that all human beings have fundamental rights and freedoms, and the first time that the rights and freedoms of individuals had ever been set forth in such detail. The drafting process of the UDHR involved representatives from all regions and drew inspiration from values, belief systems and political traditions from different cultures and societies across the globe. It was to be a common statement of mutual aspirations--a shared vision of a more equitable and just world--and has become today a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations and the foundation for an expanding system of human rights protection. The UDHR has been translated into over 360 different languages, making it the most widely translated document in the world. 

SHAPING HISTORY- Throughout history, popular uprisings have often occurred in reaction to inhumane treatment and injustice. The English Bill of Rights in 1689, drafted after the English Civil Wars, sprang from the people's aspiration for democracy. Exactly a century later, the French Revolution gave rise to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and its proclamation of equality for all. But the Cyrus Cylinder, issued in 539 BCE by Cyrus the Great of the Achaemenid Persian Empire (ancient Iran) after his conquest of Babylon, is said by many to be the first human rights document, and the Pact of the Virtuous (Hilf-al-Fudul), concluded by the Arab tribes around 590 CE, is considered one of the first human rights alliances.

After World War II and the creation of the United Nations, the international community vowed never again to allow such devastating conflict. World leaders decided to complement the UN Charter with a document which would guarantee the rights of every individual everywhere, always.
The task was taken up at the first session of the General Assembly in 1946. Later, the work of drafting a Universal Declaration of Human Rights was entrusted to a formal drafting committee, consisting of members of the Commission on Human Rights from eight states, selected with due regard for geographical distribution. Eleanor Roosevelt, widow of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, chaired the UDHR drafting committee and is recognized as the driving force for the Declaration's adoption.  

ADDRESS OF NELSON MANDELA, President of the Republic of South Africa, at the 53rd United Nations General Assembly, New York 21 September 1998:
"Born in the aftermath of the defeat of the Nazi and fascist crime against humanity, this Declaration held high hope that all our societies would, in future, be built on the foundation of the glorious vision spelt out in each of its clauses.

For those who had to fight for their emancipation, such as ourselves who, with your help, had to free ourselves from the criminal apartheid system, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights served as the vindication of the justice of our cause.

At the same time, it constituted a challenge to us that our freedom, once achieved, should be dedicated to the implementation of the perspectives contained in the Declaration.

Today, we celebrate the fact that this historic document has survived a turbulent five decades, which have seen some of the most extraordinary developments in the evolution of human society.

These include the collapse of the colonial system, the passing of a bipolar world, breath-taking advances in science and technology and the entrenchment of the complex process of globalisation.

And yet, at the end of it all, the human beings who are the subject of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights continue to be afflicted by wars and violent conflicts.

They have, as yet, not attained their freedom from fear and death that would be brought about by the use of weapons of mass destruction as well as conventional arms.

Many are still unable to exercise the fundamental and inalienable democratic rights that would enable them to participate in the determination of the destiny of their countries, nations, families and children and to protect themselves from tyranny and dictatorship.

The very right to be human is denied everyday to hundreds of millions of people as a result of poverty, the unavailability of basic necessities such as food, jobs, water and shelter, education, health care and a healthy environment.

The failure to achieve this vision contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights finds dramatic expression in the contrast between wealth and poverty which characterises the divide between the countries of the North and the countries of the South and within individual countries in all hemispheres.v It is made especially poignant and challenging by the fact that this coexistence of wealth and poverty, the perpetuation of the practice of the resolution of inter and intra-state conflicts by war and the denial of the democratic right of many across the world, all result from the acts of commission and omission particularly by those who occupy positions of leadership in politics, in the economy and in other spheres of human activity.

What I am trying to say is that all these social ills which constitute an offence against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are not a pre-ordained result of the forces of nature or the product of a curse of the deities.

They are the consequences of decisions which men and women take or refuse to take, all of whom will not hesitate to pledge their devoted support for the vision conveyed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This Declaration was proclaimed as Universal precisely because the founders of this Organisation and the nations of the world who joined hands to fight the scourge of fascism, including many who still had to achieve their own emancipation, understood this clearly that our human world was an interdependent whole.

Necessarily, the values of happiness, justice, human dignity, peace and prosperity have a universal application because each people and every individual is entitled to them.

Similarly, no people can truly say it is blessed with happiness, peace and prosperity where others, as human as itself, continue to be afflicted with misery, armed conflict and terrorism and deprivation.

Thus can we say that the challenge posed by the next 50 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by the next century whose character it must help fashion, consists in whether humanity, and especially those who will occupy positions of leadership, will have the courage to ensure that, at last, we build a world consistent with the provisions of that historic Declaration and other human rights instruments that have been adopted since 1948."


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, 
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations, 
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom, 
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in cooperation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms, 
Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,  

Now, therefore,  

The General Assembly,  

Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by  teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.  

Article I  
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.  

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. 

Article 3  
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.  

Article 4  
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms. 

Article 5  
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.  
Article 6  
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.  

Article 7  
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.  

Article 8  
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.  

Article 9  
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.  

Article 10  
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.  

Article 11  
1. Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.  
2. No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.  

Article 12  
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.  

Article 13  
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.  
2. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.  

Article 14  
1. Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.  
2. This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.  

Article 15  
1. Everyone has the right to a nationality.  
2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.  

Article 16  
1. Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.  
2. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.  
3. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.  

Article 17  
1. Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.  
2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.  

Article 18  
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.  

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.  

Article 20  
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.  
2. No one may be compelled to belong to an association.  

Article 21   
1. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.  
2. Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his country.  
3. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.  

Article 22  
Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.  

Article 23  
1. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.  
2. Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.  
3. Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.  
4. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.  

Article 24  
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.  
Article 25  
1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.  
2. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.  

Article 26  
1. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.  
2. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.  
3. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.  

Article 27  
1. Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.  
2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author. 

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.  

Article 29  
1. Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.  
2. In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.  
3. These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.  

Article 30
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.   

Zie ook: ‘Europees mensenrechtenverdrag houdt Nederland bij de les’ 

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