5 December 1997


Press Release
SG/SM/6414
OBV/32



UNIVERSALITY OF HUMAN RIGHTS GIVES THEM POWER, SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS, IN MESSAGE ON 50TH ANNIVERSARY YEAR OF HUMAN RIGHTS DECLARATION

19971205
Following is the text of a message by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the beginning of the fiftieth anniversary year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 10 December:

This is a day of celebration. Today we mark the beginning of the fiftieth anniversary year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In every part of the world, men, women and children of every colour and creed will gather to embrace our common human rights.

Human rights are the foundation of human existence and coexistence. Human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent. Human rights are what make us human. They are the principles by which we create the sacred home for human dignity.

When we speak of the right to life, or development, or to dissent and diversity, we are speaking of tolerance. Tolerance -- promoted, protected and enshrined -- will ensure all freedoms. Without it, we can be certain of none.

Human rights are the expression of those traditions of tolerance in all religions and cultures that are the basis of peace and progress. Human rights are foreign to no culture and native to all nations. Tolerance and mercy have always and in all cultures been ideals of government rule and human behaviour. Today, we call these ideals human rights.

It is the universality of human rights that gives them their strength. It endows them with the power to cross any border, climb any wall, defy any force.

The struggle for universal human rights has always and everywhere been the struggle against all forms of tyranny and injustice -- against slavery, against colonialism, against apartheid. It is nothing less and nothing different today.

Young friends all over the world,

You are the ones who must realize these rights, now and for all time. Their fate and future is in your hands. Human rights are your rights. Seize them. Defend them. Promote them. Understand them and insist on them. Nourish and enrich them.

They are the best in us. Give them life.

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