2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Lynn Rickard looks at its history and how effective it is today.

In 1946 the end of World War II spurred world leaders to make international reform to secure the rights of individuals across the globe. Members of a commission from 8 states with varying religious and cultural backgrounds drafted the Bill of Human Rights. After being adopted by the Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 it has since been adopted by the UN.

Expanding internationally with 360 translations worldwide it serves as a promise by the government to its citizens. The Universal Declaration has inspired international reform regarding how human rights are viewed, treated and implemented. However, the Declaration is not to be confused with a treaty as it is not legally binding. Comprised of 30 different articles, it is a set of standards, values and moral principles countries aim to adhere to for example article 3 states “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”

Human rights abuses
While it was an unprecedented part of international law,  and worth commending a harsher reality lies beneath the surface. According to an Amnesty Report for 2015/2016 documenting the state of Human Rights in 160 countries, the declaration is not being universally enforced. The following statistics serve as subtle reminders of Human Right injustices both on our doorstep and oceans away.

  • Over 3,700 refugees and migrants lost their lives trying to reach Europe’s shores.
  • In India, torture and other ill-treatment in custody, including cases of deaths from torture, were reported.
  • More than 250,000 people had been killed in Syria since the government’s brutal repression of popular protests and demands for reform that began in 2011.
  • In Argentina, reports of torture – including beatings with cattle prods, near asphyxiation with plastic bags, submersion and prolonged isolation.
  • At least 30 countries forced refugees to return to places where they would be in danger.  

“Not only are our rights under threat, so are the laws and the system that protect them. More than 70 years of hard work and human progress lies at risk” Salil Shetty -Secretary General Amnesty International.


Photo by Abigail Keenan on Unsplash

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