I am sending this message from Africa where I am visiting Uganda, Rwanda and South Africa -- three countries in a region which has suffered greatly and where the full enjoyment of human rights remains a constant struggle.
What is encouraging is that there are now efforts throughout the region, with support from the international community, to address past wrongs, tackle current challenges and prepare the ground for a better future.
The problems described to me in the past days were also found in other regions of the world -- murderous violence and rape, ethnic tensions, discrimination, inequality of economic opportunity, the legacies of abusive regimes, pervasive poverty, and denial of basic rights to women. The currency of these violations is a sobering reminder that we have no basis for self- satisfaction or complacency.
With this in mind, I urge that Human Rights Day be an occasion to reaffirm our commitment to work for change and to demonstrate that the principles of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are not theoretical or abstract. This must be given practical effect with the results measured by the improved well-being of individuals around the world.
This Human Rights Day begins the year-long review of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, a time when the United Nations system and all governments seriously assess their successes and shortcomings in living up to the solemn obligations made at the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993. I look forward to this year of review leading up to the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It should be a year of discussion and debate on the continuing relevance of international human rights standards in the international system, in national administration and the work of civil society.
- 2 - Press Release HR/4346 OBV/33 9 December 1997
Human rights commitments are dynamic, developing with new understanding and awareness. I would especially encourage purposeful debate on economic, social and cultural rights and the right to development in ways which open up better understanding on how these human rights can be implemented in international and national programmes.
As High Commissioner for Human Rights I draw strength from being part of a broad human rights community encompassing organizations and individuals, representing all cultures, traditions and backgrounds. The Universal Declaration is the well-spring, the inspiration for our efforts and the standard by which we measure our achievement.
My Office is dedicated to working in support of all whose work is guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its opening lines:
"recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world."
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