65th Anniversary of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
HUMAN RIGHTS DAY, EVERY DAY
by David Gallup
President, World Service Authority
Every December 10th since 1948, we have celebrated the unanimously signed Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as a momentous occasion in humanity's evolution. This is our yearly reminder to make every day a human rights day, to advance social, economic and environmental justice.
For nearly 60 years, the administrative branch of the World Government of World Citizens, the World Service Authority (WSA), has been providing human rights assistance to individuals around the world through legal advocacy, educational services, and documentation. The daily work of WSA's Documentation and Legal Departments has been indispensable to many people made stateless, refugeed, or undocumented due to war or national governmental persecution.
The WSA is tasked with implementing our human rights fully and engaging others in this process. Making everyone aware of their rights, providing tools to help people claim their rights, and seeing that our rights are respected are WSA's principal missions.
The day-to-day advocacy work, educational programs, and document issuance of the WSA both affirm and implement the rights listed in the Declaration:( Click hereto view the Declaration)
On this 65th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration, recall that no one will claim your rights for you. You must claim them. But in order to claim your rights, first you must know them. Every year, the WSA provides thousands of free copies of the Declaration in multiple languages to individuals around the world through its Human Rights Awareness Project. (Donations are accepted for bulk orders of the Declaration. Please see the WSA Catalog under "Basic Documents.")(Click here to view theCatalog)
Join us in this endeavor to ensure that human rights are universally respected for everyone, everywhere, everyday.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
In 1948, the framers of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights did not envision it as a mere wish list of human aspirations. The devastation, despair and despicable acts of World War II were still fresh in their memories when they were drafting the Declaration. They wanted to create "a social and international order" in which everyone could share the world peacefully and in which everyone's rights and needs would be fully met. They envisioned every day as a human rights day.
Garry Davis, World War II veteran, world citizen and human rights activist, was, behind the scenes, instrumental in the unanimous signing of the Declaration. By December of 1948, Garry was world famous for camping out on the steps of the United Nations when it was holding its General Assembly sessions at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris and for interrupting a Session to call for a World Government and World Parliament.
In the halls of the UN, however, the squabbling of the nation-states continued. The Russians and several Soviet Bloc countries were threatening to vote against the Declaration. The night before the vote, at the Velodrome d'Hiver before 20,000 people, Garry Davis called for World Government. He said, "We can no longer permit ourselves to be lead by statesmen who use us as pawns in the game of national interests. We wish to be led by those who represent us directly: we, the individuals of the human community."
This rousing speech made headlines throughout Europe and impacted the representatives of the states considering whether to accept or reject the Declaration. The next day, instead of voting against the UDHR, 8 countries abstained. This meant that 48 countries unanimously accepted the UDHR. Now every member-state of the United Nations, when becoming members, must agree at least in principle to abide by the Declaration.
Because the Declaration is "customary international law," however, it garners less respect than treaty law which all UN member-states are bound to uphold. And even treaty law is easily flouted by wealthy or powerful countries that either can afford to or find it in their best interest to disobey their agreements because they know there will be no repercussion. National governments can violate our rights with impunity. Whether through large scale violations such as war, or the daily indignities that jeopardize our basic freedoms, the nation-states perpetuate a system that intentionally and arbitrarily violates universal rights. Despite their international law obligations, the nation-states, themselves, are the prime violators of our rights. Because human rights are inclusive and universal, the exclusive nation-states cannot and do not effectively fulfill their obligation to uphold human rights for everyone everywhere.
In 1993, I attended an event at a Washington D.C. law school celebrating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A renowned law professor and human rights expert stated that the Declaration was simply that -- a declaration of what humans would strive for but never would achieve. From the audience, I raised my hand and boldly asserted, "The Universal Declaration is customary international law and all governments are obliged to respect it." He heartily laughed, waived his hand dismissively at me and said, "The Declaration will never be customary law."
In 2008, I attended another celebration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the same law school. This time, however, a panel of 5 expert law professors and human rights activists confirmed that, yes, many articles in the Declaration were now considered to be obligatory under customary international law. In only 15 years, much of what we strived for in recognition of the Declaration's legal status, we have achieved.
Join World Service Authority in making every day a human rights day, so we can continue this process of achieving universal justice. Make your voice heard by registering as a world citizen! (WorldCitizen registration page)