Na´ve but not discouraged: A refresher course on the fight for respect

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

We all remember sitting in history class, learning about the abolishment of slavery and the civil rights movement in the U.S., but what about international human rights?

The international human rights movement, which had been active for some time, gained traction in 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document known as humanity's Magna Carta to Eleanor Roosevelt, on Dec. 10.

The main motivation behind the U.D.H.R. was the human rights abuses committed during World War II, including the Nazi genocide of Jews, Roma (gypsies) and other groups.

Roosevelt, along with Chinese playwright, philosopher and diplomat Chang Peng-chun and Charles Habib Malik, a Lebanese philosopher and diplomat, were instrumental in the drafting of the U.D.H.R. French jurist Rene Cassin was originally recognized at the principal author, but now it's been established that John Humphrey, Canadian law professor and U.N. Secretariat's Human Rights director, authored the very first draft.

The drafters sought to highlight the interrelationship between war prevention and fundamental human rights, with two ethical considerations underscoring the main tenets of the declaration: a commitment to the inherent dignity of every human being and a commitment to nondiscrimination.

This declaration, known as a "common standard of achievement for all peoples and nations," spelled out for the first time in human history the basic civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights all human beings should enjoy, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. This principle of universality and non-discrimination of human rights is viewed by many as the cornerstone of international human rights law.

The U.D.H.R. is comprised of 30 articles, detailing key civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, all of which are inalienable and indivisible, only taken away in specific situations and according to due process.

Under the U.D.H.R., states assume obligations and duties to respect, to protect and to fulfill human rights; humans, on the other hand, should respect the human rights of others while fulfilling their own human rights.

One of the basic foundations of the U.D.H.R. is universal respect, which is something I believe many need improvement on. Without respect between governments, political parties or even people, how are we expected to function properly?

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the U.D.H.R. - don't backslide and forget about the rights that the world fought for in the 1940s.

With Human Rights Day being celebrated internationally on Dec. 10, I encourage all of you to practice proper decorum and remember that respect goes both ways.

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