Human Rights Day 2021: Working together to achieve human rights for all


December 10 is International Human Rights Day. It was on this day, back in 1948, when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The aim of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was to provide a framework for an acceptable standard of living for all people. While not legally binding, it has had major impacts on state governance, which in turn, has led to major shifts in addressing human rights violations.

Across the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown how far we still have to go to achieve basic human rights for all. It has sparked a global movement in which communities are speaking out against the ongoing inequalities that continue to disadvantage certain groups, and in particular, racialized and Indigenous people. These deep-rooted injustices are often intergenerational, and they cause disparities when it comes to accessing basic necessities such as food, water and in the case of a global pandemic, vaccines.

“We need to be proactive when tackling inequality and systemic discrimination,” said OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “This requires political commitment from all levels of government. We must work together to eradicate poverty, stop violence against vulnerable citizens, women and girls, and resolve the rising cost of housing and education.”

“Unions play an important role in promoting and protecting human rights,” said OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida. “They fight for workers’ rights to ensure that people earn a living wage and have access to fair and safe working conditions. It comes full circle because when workers’ basic needs are met, they are better able to give back and support their communities.”

On International Human Rights Day, we must re-commit to fighting for a future with equity at its core. Because societies that protect and promote human rights for all are more resilient and impactful – and they do a better job handling unexpected crises when they arise, including a global pandemic.

“We must lay the groundwork for the kind of society that we want to live in,” said Elizabeth Ha, Chair of OPSEU/SEFPO’s Provincial Human Rights Committee (PHRC). “We need to hear from everyone, especially the voices that have traditionally been left out of the decision-making table. Their input is important if we truly want to make sure that everyone’s needs are met as we forge ahead post-pandemic.”