Organize an Event to Commemorate Human Rights Day
Organize an event to commemorate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Whether you choose to stage an extra-credit lecture or an awards ceremony, this is a great way to educate your friends and community about the importance of human rights.
Every community has organizations that advocate for human rights and social justice. Most of these organizations need volunteers. Taking a few hours to volunteer, even on a regular basis, can make a difference.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document that, for the first time, established a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. Its adoption by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948 acknowledged the dignity of every person as the foundation for freedom, justice and peace in the world.
Its 30 articles outline a comprehensive listing of key civil and political rights, as well as economic, social and cultural rights. It is the basis for a wide range of national and international laws, and a growing number of treaties.
Work on the UDHR began in 1946, when the Economic and Social Council, one of the founding organs of the newly-formed United Nations, created a committee to prepare what was then known as an “International Bill of Rights.” The drafting committee included representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, allowing the document to benefit from a diversity of perspectives. Among its authors were Eleanor Roosevelt, John Humphrey and Chang Peng-chun from China, as well as Charles Habib Malik from Lebanon. Amnesty International campaigned for the UDHR, and famous people such as Muhammad Ali signed its pledge. The UDHR has become the most widely translated document in history.
The United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization that aims to maintain world peace and security; develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principles of equal rights and self-determination of peoples; and achieve universal cooperation in solving international economic, social, cultural and humanitarian problems. It is the only place where the world’s nations can meet and discuss common problems and find solutions that benefit all of humanity.
It is made up of 193 member nations and includes an assembly, or policymaking body; a Security Council that oversees measures to ensure maintenance of international peace and security; the Economic and Social Council, which makes policies on social and economic issues; and the International Court of Justice, the UN’s principal judicial organ. It also has an administrative division called the Secretariat and a number of independent agencies that operate in various fields, such as the World Health Organization.
Today, the United Nations continues its important work that was envisioned when it was founded in 1945, including advancing human rights, global development and planetary sustainability. It has also taken on new challenges that were not foreseen by its founders, such as tackling climate change. These new responsibilities have come with increased criticism, including allegations that the U.N. promotes globalization, backs provocative political ideas, provides controversial health options and gives certain countries more power than others.
As we commemorate Human Rights Day on 21 March, we must remember the many sacrifices that accompanied South Africa’s journey to democracy. We also recognise the importance of ensuring that those fundamental human rights, which were formerly denied by apartheid, are protected, promoted and fulfilled.
The UDHR provided a sudden ray of hope at one of our darkest moments, and reasserted the dignity of Black South Africans. Its message was that they were not alone in their struggle against the racist system of apartheid, but were part of a global movement for human rights and peace.
Today, South Africa has a constitution that guarantees the rights of its people, including the right to equality and freedom. These rights must be honoured and upheld by everyone, including government.
South Africa must use its unique position on the continent to encourage other countries to sign the ACHPR, which would allow them direct access to a continental court, in line with the ideal that African problems should have African solutions. In this context, we should support the work of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and its Judges, particularly our very own Dumisa Ntsebeza. We should also continue to promote a South African model of multilateralism, with the African Union and the United Nations as key partners for promoting peace, democracy and development in Africa.