United Nations Message on Human Rights day: Standing up for human rights more important than ever

Statement by UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem on Human Rights Day 10 December 2020

Realizing human rights, equal and inalienable for every person, is the most just and meaningful goal of any society.

Human rights are universal principles, yet as Eleanor Roosevelt once reminded us, they begin in “small places, close to home…. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.”

All around us is stark evidence of how failing to realize human rights in small places multiplies on a global scale.

We knew that was happening long before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the virus has placed a magnifying glass on structural racism, gender inequality and pervasive discrimination all over the world. When the virus pushed people into their homes, and put whole economies and societies on pause, racial and ethnic minorities and women and girls found their human rights even more imperiled.

In a sign of how close to vulnerability many women and girls are, they were the first to lose rights to safety, as rates of domestic violence soared. As children stayed home and people fell ill, new unpaid care burdens on women added to their already unfair share. Given overburdened health-care systems, reproductive rights, whether to access contraception or give birth safely, were constrained. A likely future of austerity and budget cuts could now disproportionately harm ethnic and racial minorities and further shrink the public services that women need most.

Today we celebrate Human Rights Day, held each year on the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, shaped under Eleanor Roosevelt’s leadership. This year, a year fraught with so much difficulty, we must promise that we will do better.

Let us embrace human rights, each of us, and not just in laws and declarations, but in people’s lives.

The United Nations Secretary-General has issued “A Call to Action for Human Rights” reaffirming “that a culture of human rights must permeate everything we do”. For us at UNFPA, that means preventing and eliminating discrimination in all our work, providing quality services that meet international human rights standards, and holding ourselves accountable at all times.

For us as individuals, it means standing up, because that is our right. And when we cannot do it alone, we must do it together, and call on the people and institutions obligated to fulfil rights and provide protections.

Let us seize this day and the days to come. In Roosevelt’s words: “The world of the future is in our making. Tomorrow is now.”

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  1. Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
    December 15, 2020

    “Human rights are moral principles or norms that describe certain standards of human behaviour and are regularly protected in municipal and international law.

    They are commonly understood as inalienable, fundamental rights “to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being” and which are “inherent in all human beings”, regardless of their age, ethnic origin, location, language, religion, ethnicity, or any other status.

    They are applicable everywhere and at every time in the sense of being universal, and they are egalitarian in the sense of being the same for everyone. They are regarded as requiring empathy and the rule of law and imposing an obligation on persons to respect the human rights of others, and it is generally considered that they should not be taken away except as a result of due process based on specific circumstances.”

    If all of the above is true then 99.9% of the world’s population does not have or enjoy such rights and…

  2. No you didn't
    December 12, 2020

    The UN is only concerned about human rights outside of Africa. Human rights take all sorts of forms. When France extorts over $500 billion annually from 14 African countries and leaves their populations with flies on them(as they show on French tv) and begging, then France tells us that Africa is poor, where is the human rights outage from the UN when France also runs their security council? That’s stick!

  3. Franqenstein
    December 11, 2020

    Its great to see that the people of the world are opening their eyes to the illusions that surround us. One of the Greatest institutional illusions the “United Nations”. its comical how the Un can speak about “human rights” when their “peace keepers” are known Globally as exploiters of the vulnerable especially women. Just a simple web search will reveal numerous systemic Human Rights Violations done by the representatives of the UN. Africa is filled with Fatherless Children of “UN Peace Keepers” they rape and manipulate the female populace where ever they go. There is so much more that can be attributed to the Evil/Hypocrisy of the UN. I recommend that people open their eyes to the illusions of this world, the truth is there for everyone to see though it may be scary I prefer the truth over the lie any day.

  4. December 10, 2020

    The UN is a feckless, corrupt organisation in general, but even by their abysmal standards human rights are a special point of shameless hypocrisy. Their human rights commissions and councils routinely have the most tyrannical regimes in the world as members — for example Venezuela presently, to be joined by China next year. What a sad joke.

    • Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
      December 15, 2020

      Steve, don’t forget that Dominica is represented in the UN; so when you are talking of tyrants, don’t forget Roosevelt Madrid Skerrit is a corrupted tyrant too, okay!

  5. Channel 1
    December 10, 2020

    ‘Human rights’ eh.

    That term has been weaponized & is being utilized as a Trojan horse to covertly usher in all sorts of perversion into society.

    Folks, please beware of seemingly innocent entities that use the phrase ‘human rights’ in ambiguous speech.

    The truth is hidden in plain sight.

  6. Gary
    December 10, 2020

    Such hypocrisy, just worthless words.

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