The 10th of December commemorates the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Eleanor Roosevelt, on behalf of the United States, along with 48 other UN member states signed the declaration to prevent the tragedies of the first half of the 20th century from happening again.
The UDHR has given us a great deal. However, it is often overlooked and in some countries ignored altogether. Although not every state is subject to the declaration, the UN has a duty to enforce the declaration wherever possible. The declaration protects rights from freedom of speech to the right to a fair trial and the right to sanitation.
Despite what can only be described as the UN’s best efforts the declaration is still actively broken in may countries today. During the 1990s the world saw tragedies across the former Yugoslav region of Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia, etc. Today we see genocide in Burundi, Syria, Burma and more countries across the globe.
Despite this, the UDHR has brought us a long way. However, the question we face is this: is intervention in the name of human rights altruistic or an attempt to fulfil our national security interests. The ideal answer is that intervention is for both purposes and is evenly mixed. It is important to remember that UN intervention is not just in countries that do pose a form of security threat but also in countries that have faced recent environmental disasters.
In Madrid, there is currently a border crossing exhibition which shows photos and stories of how people have tried to cross different borders in many different circumstances. The exhibition showed stories from the Berlin wall to Syria and Mexico. The point of this is that although we have come a long way regarding our human rights, we still have further to go.
Human rights are also only taught as a general concept in our education system. Students who chose to study philosophy in post GCSE have the opportunity to study rights more in depth. However, between the ages of 11 and 16 human rights are only a passing point in subjects such as citizenship studies and tutor time. This highlights an apparent issue in our education system as it means the next generation are becoming ever more misinformed about their rights.
Overall, the 10th of December is a day that should be celebrated globally. It not only celebrates how far we have come globally, it shows how much more work is needed to progress further and to protect our human rights and the UDHR.