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When the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948, it was a revolutionary moment. For the first time in history, all nations came together to agree on a common set of human rights standards, applicable to all human beings, everywhere.  The declaration emphasised rights and freedoms that were universal, indivisible, interrelated, interdependent and inalienable, and recognised the equality, dignity and worth of every person. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a unifying force and has a potential to transform lives, bring peace and build consensus by focusing on its legacy, relevance and activism. Since the proclamation of the declaration, human rights have advanced. We know that human rights are the catalyst to progress, because they have already shown their potential.


The rights of women, children, young people, persons with disabilities and migrants have been inscribed in law and discrimination has been challenged. Large swathes of the world are no longer under colonial rule and repressive regimes.  The declaration embodies the values of many globally revered icons who have fought for social justice. It has inspired social movements for stronger human rights protection. However, the promise of the declaration, of dignity and equality in rights, is under attack.  The climate crisis, increasing conflicts, economic instability, misinformation, racial injustice, rising inequality and global setbacks on women’s rights are all challenges that require us to reorient ourselves with the declaration.
Many people are exasperated and have lost faith in programmes and policies and the perceived inaction of governments and institutions that are meant to protect human rights.

Guided by the declaration, we need to renew the social contract between governments and the people and within societies. The values inherent in the declaration will help us rebuild trust and embrace a common agenda on the road to a just and sustainable development. New movements, young activists and bold leaders continue to challenge the status quo and rekindle the spirit of the declaration, with new ideas to protect and promote human rights. The declaration remains an enabler of activism. Emboldened by our solidarity and common purpose, we must continue to work together to give the declaration new life and to realise the fast-approaching target for 2030 sustainable development goals. Let dignity, freedom and justice reign.

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