UN Cyberschoolbus - HomeUN Cyberschoolbus - Home
Quotable


It was never the people who complained of the universality of human rights, nor did the people consider human rights as a Western or Northern imposition. It was often their leaders who did so. 

Mr. Kofi Annan,
United Nations Secretary-General

I believe we should try to move away from the vocabulary and attitudes which shape the stereotyping of developed and developing country approaches to human rights issues. We are collective custodians of universal human rights standards, and any sense that we fall into camps of “accuser” and “accused” is absolutely corrosive of our joint purposes. The reality is that no group of countries has any grounds for complacency about its own human rights performance and no group of countries does itself justice by automatically slipping into the “victim” mode.. 

Mary Robinson,
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

A universal renunciation of violence requires the commitment of the whole of society. These are not matters of government but matters of State; not only matters for the authoirities, but for society in its entirety, including civilian, military, and religious bodies. The mobilization which is urgently needed to effect the transition within two or three years from a culture of war to a culture of peace demands co-operation from everyone. In order to change, the world needs everyone. 

Federico Mayor,
Director-General of UNESCO

Basically we could not have peace, or an atmosphere in which peace could grow, unless we recognized the rights of individual human beings... their importance, their dignity... and agreed that was the basic thing that had to be accepted throughout the world. 

Eleanor Roosevelt, USA

I have cherished the ideal a democratic and free society... it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die. 

Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa, who was imprisoned from 1964-1990.

We discovered that peace at any price is no peace at all. We discovered that life at any price has no value whatever; that life is nothing without the privileges, the prides, the rights, the joys which make it worth living, and also worth giving. And we also discovered that there is something more hideous, more atrocious than war or than death; and that is to live in fear. 

Eve Curie, French author, speaking to the American Booksellers Association, New York, 9 April 1940

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights - This great and inspiring instrument was born of an increased sense of responsibility by the international community for the promotion and protection of man’s basic rights and freedoms. The world has come to a clear realization of the fact that freedom, justice and world peace can only be assured through the international promotion and protection of these rights and freedoms. 

U Thant, Third United Nations Secretary-General, 1961-1971

The Universal Declaration... as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations...it not only crystallizes the political thought of our times on these matters, but it has also influenced the thinking of legislators all over the world. 

Dag Hammarskjöld, Second UN Secretary-General, 1953-1961

Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them. 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Former US President, Four Freedoms Speech, 6 January 1941

It has long been recognized that an essential element in protecting human rights was a widespread knowledge among the population of what their rights are and how they can be defended. 

Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Sixth UN Secretary-General, 1992-1996

When I gave food to the poor, they called me a saint. When I asked why the poor were hungry, they called me a Communist. 

Dom Helder Camara, Brazilian Roman Catholic archbishop,
author, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee

Although we are in different boats you in your boat and we in our canoe we share the same river of life. 

Chief Oren Lyons, Onandaga Nation, USA

We are not myths of the past, ruins in the jungle, or zoos. We are people and we want to be respected, not to be victims of intolerance and racism. 

Rigoberta Menchu, Guatemala Nobel Peace Prize Winner, 1992

Physical violence endured by women migrant workers reportedly ranges from sexual harassment to kicking, beating, slapping, punching and hair-pulling to rape and sexual assualt, sometimes resulting in death. 

Radhika Coomaraswamy, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, addressing a meeting in the Phillipines, 27 May 1996.

The human rights we are to discuss here at Vienna are...the quintessential values through which we affirm together that we are a single human community. 

Former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, at the World Conferenceon Human Rights, 14 June 1993

The right to development is the measure of the respect of all other human rights.That should be our aim: a situation in which all individuals are enabled to maximize their potential, and to contribute to the evolution of society as a whole. 

Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General

For too long the development debate has ignored the fact that poverty tends to be characterized not only by material insufficiency but also by denial of rights. What is needed is a rights-based approach to development. Ensuring essential political, economic and social entitlements and human dignity for all people provides the rationale for policy. These are not a luxury affordable only to the rich and powerful but an indispensable component of national development efforts. 

Commission for Social Development, Thirty-sixth session, E/CN.5/1998/4

In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December 1948) in most solemn form, the dignity of a person is acknowledged to all human beings; and as a consequence there is proclaimed, as a fundamental right, the right of free movement in search for truth and in the attainment of moral good and of justice, and also the right to a dignified life. 

Pope John XXIII, 1881-1963 Pacem in Terris, 1963

Poverty cannot be accepted as a pretext and justification for the exploitation of children. It does not explain the huge global demand with, in many instances, customers from rich countries circumventing their national laws to exploit children in other countries. Sex tourism has spread its illicit wings wide, and paedophiles search for their victims in all parts of the globe. The problem is compounded by the criminal networks which benefit from the trade in children, and by collusion and corruption in many national settings. 

Vitit Muntarbhorn,
the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography until 1995
http://www.un.org/rights/dpi1765e.htm

We have seen enough in five years to know that this approach works. When the Government of Viet Nam, for example, accepted that we were more interested in helping than criticizing, they submitted an open and self-critical report. Subsequently, Viet Nam acted: laws covering the protection, care and education of children have all been passed. 

Hoda Badra,
Chairperson of the International Committee on the Rights of the Child in 1995,
Progress of Nations, UNICEF

Return to the Resources page

Human Rights Home
UN Cyberschoolbus - Home comments and suggestions: cyberschoolbus@un.org Copyright © 1996- United Nations