The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217 A) as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected and it has been translated into over 500 languages.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
The declaration begins at the beginning, with birth. It says that we are all born free, and we have equality in dignity and rights. Those are our rights. The declaration also says that we have responsibilities to go along with our rights. Since we are endowed with reason and a conscience, we are expected to use them to protect the rights of our fellow human beings. We are expected to realize that the rights we demand for ourselves belong to everyone, and that we have a responsibility to ensure them.
Looking at the world it’s obvious that these rights and freedoms are not universal. Far too many people don’t enjoy them. The reason for that is that some of us aren’t upholding our responsibility to make them universal. Some of us are abrogating the rights and freedoms of others for personal gain, and too many of us are shirking our responsibility to stop that. Things are better than they were before the United Nations made this declaration, but there is plenty of room to make things better still.