International Human Rights Day

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Amna Malik

Human Rights Day is observed by the international community every year on 10 December. It commemorates the day in 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, it set out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected.

The formal inception of Human Rights Day dates from 1950, after the Assembly passed resolution 423 (V) inviting all States and interested organizations to adopt 10 December of each year as Human Rights Day.

When the General Assembly adopted the Declaration, with 48 states in favor and eight abstentions, it was proclaimed as a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”, towards which individuals and societies should “strive by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance”. Although the Declaration with its broad range of political, civil, social, cultural and economic rights is not a binding document, it inspired more than 60 human rights instruments which together constitute an international standard of human rights. Today the general consent of all United Nations Member States on the basic Human Rights laid down in the Declaration makes it even stronger and emphasizes the relevance of Human Rights in our daily lives.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, as the main United Nations rights official, and his Office play a major role in coordinating efforts for the yearly observation of Human Rights Day.

Human rights create conditions essential for sustainable development. The 2030 Agenda recognizes that inclusive and participative economies, and societies in which government is accountable, achieve better outcomes for all people, leaving no one behind. The Declaration on the Right to Development emphasizes the right of all individuals and peoples to free, active and meaningful participation. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights set out the duty of States and private companies to ensure that business activities do not abuse people’s rights.

Civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights and the right to development build on each other and advance together.  No matter how free individuals are to speak out and protest, they are not truly free if they lack food, education or adequate housing. The reverse is also true. Societies, in which people have access to fundamental social protections, and economic resources and opportunities, are less vulnerable to social fracture and the spread of extremism. Despite this, economic policies in many countries have curtailed social protection and concentrated wealth and political power in fewer and fewer hands. Unsustainable, wasteful growth patterns increase environmental degradation and accelerate climate change, generating effects that harm health, access to water and sanitation, food, housing and land rights, and endanger life. The poorest, who contribute least to climate change, pay the highest price.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights provides technical support, guidance and advocacy to increase the effectiveness of judicial and non-judicial accountability mechanisms and policies to address human rights abuses arising from economic activity, including in cross border cases; clarify legal options and identify practical measures to improve access to remedy for victims of human rights abuses that involve businesses and other economic actors, including in the technology and finance sectors; and strategically engage with business and other economic actors to enhance accountability and access to remedy.

It works strategically with States, businesses, civil society and other key stakeholders to apply and integrate the UNGPs in national, regional and international legal and policy frameworks relevant to business and other economic actors, and in company practice.

The Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control and the world over will observe World Human Rights Day as Black Day, tomorrow, to draw the attention of the international community towards the worsening human rights situation in occupied Kashmir. The day will be marked with complete shutdown in occupied Kashmir to condemn blatant human rights violations by India.

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