A Day Dedicated to Human Rights

Today, December 10, is International Human Rights Day. This year marks the 62nd anniversary of the adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the UN, a watershed moment in establishing an international consensus that we are each entitled to certain inalienable human rights.

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.— Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

According to?Louis Henkin, the UDHR is said to be one of the most important international instruments of the twentieth century, second only, perhaps, to the United Nations Charter. The significance of the Universal Declaration lies in four achievements:
  1. It helped convert a discredited philosophical idea (“natural rights”) into a dominant political ideology
  2. It defined a vague colloquialism (“human rights”) in an authoritative code, a triple “decalogue” of thirty articles of fundamental rights.
  3. It universalized human rights, promoting a constitutional ideology accepted in a few countries into a standard of constitutionalism for all countries.
  4. It internationalized human rights, transforming matters that had been subject to exclusive domestic jurisdiction? “sovereignty” into matters of international concern, putting them permanently on the international political agenda, and providing the foundation for a sturdy edifice of international norms and institutions.

This year, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) has chosen the theme “human rights defenders who?act to end discrimination.” ?This theme notes the achievements of human?rights defenders and emphasizes how governments must enable and?protect their role. The Day is also intended to inspire a new generation of defenders to?speak up and take action to end discrimination in all of its forms. Students have a critical role as “human rights defenders,” and I invite you to join the PHR Student Program in defending human rights and demanding justice.(Cross-posted from the PHR Student Program Blog.)

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