Human Rights Day
The date was chosen to honor the United Nations General Assembly's adoption and proclamation, on 10 December 1948, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the first global enunciation of human rights and one of the first major achievements of the new United Nations.
The formal establishment of Human Rights Day occurred at the 317th Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly on 4 December 1950, when the General Assembly declared resolution 423(V), inviting all member states and any other interested organizations to celebrate the day as they saw fit.
The day is normally marked both by high-level political conferences and meetings and by cultural events and exhibitions dealing with human rights issues. In addition, it is traditionally on 10 December that the five-yearly United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights and Nobel Peace Prize are awarded. Many governmental and nongovernmental organizations active in the human rights field also schedule special events to commemorate the day, as do many civil and social-cause organisations.
Human Rights Day, 10 December
Human Rights Day presents an opportunity, every year, to celebrate human rights, highlight a specific issue, and advocate for the full enjoyment of all human rights by everyone everywhere.
This year, the spotlight is on the rights of all people — women, youth, minorities, persons with disabilities, indigenous people, the poor and marginalized — to make their voices heard in public life and be included in political decision-making.
These human rights — the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, to peaceful assembly and association, and to take part in government (articles 19, 20 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights have been at the centre of the historic changes in the Arab world over the past two years, in which millions have taken to the streets to demand change. In other parts of the world, the “99%” made their voices heard through the global Occupy movement protesting economic, political and social inequality.
Human Rights Day: “My voice counts”
"Where we come from does not determine who we can become. What we look like places no limits on what we can achieve. We should all have the right to express ourselves, all have the right to be heard, all have the right to be what we can be: To reach for the sky and touch the stars. No matter who we are, no matter whether we are man or woman, or rich or poor: My voice, my right. My voice counts."
—Desmond Tutu, a key figure in the defeat of apartheid in South Africa, Nobel Prize Laureate, first black Archbishop of South Africa.
On Human Rights Day 2012, the UN Human Rights Office is stressing that everybody has the right to have their voice heard and to have a role in making the decisions that shape their communities. Each one of us should be able to choose those people who will represent us in all governance institutions, to stand for public office, and to vote on the fundamental questions that shape our individual and collective destines.
In a statement marking the Day, High Commissioner Navi Pillay said those people who have gone onto the streets in the past few years are asking for “an end to a situation where governments simply decide what is best for their populations without even consulting them.”
“They are asking for their right to participate fully in the important decisions and policies affecting their daily lives,” Pillay said.
Human Rights Day will be celebrated this year in Geneva with an event which will canvass the views of a wide range of people whose experiences give them a unique perspective on inclusion and the right to participate in public life.
The UN Human Rights field offices, Civil Society groups in many countries and other UN organisations have also organized events to mark Human Rights Day.