History of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – a call for justice
Just imagine. Until 10 December 1948, there was no Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The world had existed without agreement on the rights of being human. There was no document informing governments how to respect those rights.
The massive loss of life and liberty through the Second World War changed the world. International agreement became a necessity. When the United Nations was established in 1945 – Article 55 of its Charter called for the establishment of a set of universally accepted and observed human rights. Fifty nations were involved in the drafting of the Declaration. It was adopted in Paris on 10 December 1948 and this year is its 70th birthday.
What’s your truth?
There’s been a lot of talk about facts, truth and the absence of truth in this millennium. We might wonder whether there are still any international truths and equally held values. We might even worry about that.
The Universal Declaration stands out as one international agreement that has stood for 70 years as a guide to countries and a test of their government’s commitment to human rights.
Over time, businesses have also stepped up to consider their role in relation to human rights. The right to health, housing, security and labour rights are some of the human rights the Australian Human Rights Commission has identified as relevant to businesses. Indigenous rights are also important for Australian businesses.
If you are thinking about human rights and your business, have a look at the United Nations Global Compact, a corporate citizenship and sustainability initiative that businesses can sign up to. Over one hundred Australian businesses have signed already.
How to keep human rights happening
It’s one thing for governments and businesses to sign up for human rights, but what happens next? Who keeps an eye on human rights? Most countries of the United Nations have a human rights organisation such as the Australian Human Rights Commission. The AHRC is the watchkeeper on human rights. It investigates complaints from people and organisations. 2017 was a busy year with 1939 complaints being investigated. Spare a thought for India’s National Human Rights Commission based in Delhi. They took over 82,000 complaints in the same year and are up to 72,000 this year.
Get out and about for Human Rights Day December 10
Most countries have a range of Human Rights Day activities in the lead up to 10 December and Australia is no exception. Botswana, for example, has a 16-day human rights festival beginning on 25 November and incorporating commemorative days and gender violence and HIV education campaigns.