One of the great things about the holiday season is that it brings into focus the idea of goodwill toward men and women. It is only fitting, then, that there is a specific day in December dedicated to that very concept: Human Rights Day, which occurs annually on December 10.
The origins of Human Rights Day go back to 1948. On December 10, 1948, the United Nations (UN) passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document acknowledging that “all human beings have certain inherent rights that are inalienable.” Now, this statement may sound similar to other documents — like the United States’ Bill of Rights — but this document is unique; instead of being specifically geared toward people in a certain country, this declaration is acknowledging that all humans around the world are deserving of basic human rights.
In fact, the main purpose of the declaration can be summed up in Article 1 of the document: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
Two years later, in a bid to both honor the declaration and promote it, the UN declared December 10 as Human Rights Day. However, it wasn’t until December of 1993 that the United Nations General Assembly created the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, a position dedicated to “the promotion and protection of all human rights.” Since the creation, the High Commissioner has made strides in advancing the cause for global human rights. The following are just a few of the many accomplishments that have been made over the course of 21 years:
“New human rights standards have built on the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the implementation of international human rights treaties is significantly improved.”
“Additional explicit protections in international law now exist covering, among others, children, women, victims of torture, persons with disabilities, and regional institutions.”
“Women’s rights are now acknowledged as fundamental human rights. Discrimination and acts of violence against women are at the forefront of the human rights discourse.”
“There are now guidelines for States which support freedom of expression while defining where speech constitutes a direct incitement to hatred or violence.”
“Victims of trafficking are now regarded as entitled to the full range of human rights and are no longer perceived to be criminals.”
Each year, there is a special theme that is in conjunction with Human Rights Day. This year’s theme is Human Rights 365. The thought behind the theme is that “every day is Human Rights Day,” not just December 10. The UN is encouraging everyone to take part in raising awareness and even has some suggestions on how you can participate. For example, you can create a vine explaining why global human rights are important to you. After creating your video, make sure to use the hashtag #rights365 so the UN can gather the videos together and debut them on December 10. You can also show your support through social media by liking the United Nations Human Rights on Facebook or by following the UN Human Rights on Twitter.
With all of the terrible things going on in the world, we need this day now more than ever. But regardless of how you choose to support the cause, please remember this: It doesn’t matter which method you choose. All that matters is living the purpose of Human Rights Day every day. So let’s treat one another with the same kindness, respect, and generosity with which we want to be treated because everyone deserves it.
And maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to make this world a better place.