By: Beatrice Serra/ GICJ



Every year, on December 10th, the international community observes the International Human Rights Day. December 10th corresponds to the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948 (General Assembly Res. 217 A). The UDHR is a cornerstone international document which details the inalienable rights and freedoms everyone is entitled to, starting with freedom and equality at birth, in dignity and rights, regardless of origin, property, birth or other status. The General Assembly proclaimed the UDHR as a "common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations", towards which individuals and societies should "strive by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance". [1]


“To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.”

Nelson Mandela

 Human Rights Day 2021 – All Human, All Equal

The theme for Human Rights Day in 2021 focuses on equality and article 1 of the UDHR according to which “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

The theme encourages the adoption of a human rights-based approach to development which aims at eradicating any form of discrimination against vulnerable people, including women and girls, indigenous peoples, religious and ethnic minorities, people of African descent, LGBTI+ people, migrants and people with disabilities. Promoting a culture of equality, inclusion and non-discrimination is the key to advance human rights and meet the goals of the 2030 Agenda.

The 48th Session of the UN Human Rights Council also focused on the practical implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The current health crisis exacerbated existing inequalities. To guarantee the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, we need vaccine equality. We also need inclusive, equitable and quality education for all while reducing the digital divide, to meet Goal 10 of the SDGs on reducing inequality within and among countries. To build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic, the spread of the virus must be contained, hence access to vaccines for all must be guaranteed.

The extreme inequalities rooted in patriarchy, colonialism, slavery, apartheid and neo-colonialism have profound human rights implications. It is undeniable that many countries are facing multiple threats within the COVID-19 pandemic: armed conflicts, climate change disasters, the rise in hate speech, discrimination and violence against vulnerable people were already huge challenges which have been exacerbated by the current health crisis.

The lack of human rights guarantees fosters unsustainable development. The rise in inequalities of income and wealth that the world has experienced over the past decade is one of the major challenges of our time. A safe and sustainable environment is the foundation of all economic, social, cultural rights on which building a fairer human rights-based economy able to achieve better outcomes leaving no one behind.[2]

Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) reiterates the powerful message “no one is safe until everyone is safe”. States have the primary responsibility to protect and promote the human rights and dignity of everyone under their jurisdiction. In the context of the current health crisis, we urge the international community, especially developed countries, to act in solidarity and guarantee access to vaccines for all. Most importantly, the fight against inequality and discrimination demands more than solid policies and regulations. It demands a far greater international will to give effect to the rights of all people, especially by guaranteeing universal health coverage and universal access to education. Further to this, the participation and representation of vulnerable groups in decision-making processes and in public life is also crucial to achieve justice and equality.

Justice, Human rights, Geneva, geneva4justice, GICJ, Geneva International Centre For Justice

[1] OHCHR,

[2] United Nations,

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