Human Rights Day is observed annually on December 10. It marks the day in 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This milestone document proclaimed rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status. For instance:
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 1). 1
Everyone has the right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancements and its benefits (Article 27).
Everyone has the right to education. It shall be free, at least in elementary and fundamental stages (Article 26).
Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses. (Article 16)
Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment (Article 23).
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 19).
Despite the declaration, human rights violations continue to run rampant today: children are exploited as cheap labour; many Indigenous communities still lack access to clean drinking water; and the recent resurgence of hatred towards immigrant communities is frightening. The UDHR's calls for a more just world is as relevant now as it ever was.
This year's Human Rights Day is the kickstart to a year-long campaign commemorating the upcoming 70th anniversary of the UDHR. The declaration holds the Guiness World Record as the most translated document ever (over 500 languages).
OPSEU's Provincial Human Rights Committee (PHRC) encourages everyone to stand up for their own rights as well as those of others. We must recommit to respecting each others' differences while pushing back against all forms of xenophobia, racism and hatred. Let us learn from one other in order to move forward together as one. We can speak out against injustice. We can support people and organizations who do the invaluable work of protecting and preserving human rights. December 10 is an example of how, as a global community, we can all take action to uphold and protect human rights — every day of the year.
Download the poster: UDHR Poster.pdf
1. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights uses the gendered language of 'brotherhood, man, and mankind' in many places, which was common usage in 1948. The declaration has never been amended, yet except for the gendered language, it remains a remarkably up to date and forward-looking document in 2017.