Sri Lanka joins the global community in commemorating and celebrating a watershed moment in modern history on December 10. It was on this day that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948. The UDHR, together with its progeny the twin international conventions on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), forms the contemporary conceptual basis for the promotion of all human rights in the world. These seminal instruments constitute the International Bill of Human Rights which many consider to be the benchmark and universal normative standard for the protection and promotion of human rights.Other core instruments have been adopted including the corollary right to development over the ensuing years, which serve to buttress and supplement the fundamental principles enunciated in the UDHR.
Situated as we are in Washington DC, it is apposite to recall the enormous contribution made by former First Lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt towards drafting and finalizing this document and shepherding its adoption by the United Nations 73 years ago. This was a process, not without its difficulties, given the geopolitical environment of the post-World War II era, which underscores the significance of the Declaration and its ongoing relevance today.
The theme for this year’s Human Rights Day is: “EQUALITY - Reducing inequalities, advancing human rights”, which encapsulates the fundamental principle given expression to by Article 1 of the UDHR, i.e. that ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.’ This precept has many sub-themes which address the universality of human rights across geo-political boundaries, national borders and cultural divides. Critical thematic areas include poverty reduction, the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, opportunity for youth, vaccine and health inequalities in the context of the pandemic, resilience to adverse climate change and, perhaps most importantly, tackling the root causes of conflict and crisis, by addressing grievances, eliminating inequalities and exclusion and allowing people to participate in decision-making that affect their daily lives.
On this day we come together, as a global community, to recall our commitment to a collective rededication towards ensuring equality, social justice and individual welfare and wellbeing. We pledge to build towards and nurture our human oneness in diversity and to work together towards a better future for all. [Ends]