It doesn’t seem to have attracted the attention it deserves but 2023 is the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Declaration “is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948.”

Today, December 10th, its anniversary date, is now celebrated as World Human Rights Day. The Declaration, all 30 articles, can be found here.

Canada’s history with the declaration goes back to the beginning. The principal drafter was Canadian legal scholar, jurist and human rights activist John Peters Humphrey.

The foundation of international human rights law and the first step in the formulation of the International Bill of Human Rights, the Declaration has inspired over 80 international human rights treaties and declarations, many regional human rights conventions, domestic human rights bills and constitutional provisions. All 192 member states of the UN have signed on in agreement with the Declaration.

On the Human Rights 75 web page, it states that, “For 75 years, the core ambition of the Declaration has been to infuse societies with equality, fundamental freedoms and justice.”

Unfortunately, a lot of societies are not being very well infused. This includes some major players in the world such as Russia and China, both of which are seriously delinquent when it comes to human rights. A variety of others trend from a total absence of human rights, such as North Korea, to backsliders, such as India. Worries persist about even one of the foremost champions of human rights, the United States, as one of its two major parties finds itself infested with fascism. We have a long way to go to achieve the ambition of the Declaration globally.

Nonetheless, efforts persist. The United Nations’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights oversees a host of committees, protocols and investigations that promote and protect human rights around the world.

Two types of mechanisms monitor human rights within the United Nations system. Human rights treaties are monitored by ten bodies made up of committees of independent experts. Charter-based bodies include the Human Rights Council, the highest level of the UN human rights machinery, made up of 47 countries and responsible for promoting and protecting all human rights around the globe.

The UN, as imperfect as it is, takes human rights seriously and keeps the fight alive. The Declaration continues to inspire and deserves to be celebrated every day of the year, not just on December 10th.

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