WITHOUT HUMAN RIGHTS, NO PEACE OR PROSPERITY CAN ENDURE, SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS ASSEMBLY COMMEMORATION

10 December 1998
SG/SM/6827

WITHOUT HUMAN RIGHTS, NO PEACE OR PROSPERITY CAN ENDURE, SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS ASSEMBLY COMMEMORATION

10 December 1998


Press Release
SG/SM/6827
HR/4393


WITHOUT HUMAN RIGHTS, NO PEACE OR PROSPERITY CAN ENDURE, SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS ASSEMBLY COMMEMORATION

19981210 CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY Anniversary of Universal Declaration Said To Mark Half Century Of Human Hope at End of Century of Human Loss, but Long Journey Ahead

This is the text of an address by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the General Assembly today at the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

We meet to commemorate the half century of a testament to human hope at the end of a century of human loss. We meet to pay tribute to the spirit of idealism and the faith in humanity that made our forebears believe in the best in man when all around was evidence of the worst in man. We meet to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Today, we honour the highest of human aspirations and renew our promise to conquer the worst of human cruelty. We pay tribute to the minds of those who conceived of these human rights, and to the memory of those who died for them. And knowing the power of human wrong, we reaffirm our faith in human right -- that faith which ultimately will sustain humanity through its darkest hours, and help us defend our human rights where they are most imperiled.

Human Rights Day 1998 is a day for all of us who enjoy human rights to imagine life without them -- and to think how hard we would fight to retain them. It is a day for those who are still denied their human rights to dream again of asserting them, and to know that their dream is our dream -- the dream of all human rights for all.

It is a day for us to recall not only the rights attained over 50 years, but also the rights denied; to pursue the achievement of justice by all and for all; to defend against the abuse of human rights with greater vigilance than ever; and to pursue the violators of human rights with greater persistence than ever. It is the day to renew our commitment to globalizing justice in the age of globalization.

I began this anniversary year by reaffirming the universality of human rights, and by arguing that human rights are foreign to no culture and native

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to all nations. Throughout this year, from the streets of Asia to the towns of Africa to the courts of Europe, justice has been done and freedom has been won. Human rights have been proven -- beyond any doubt -- to be universal.

Rights have been asserted where regimes once ruled; justice has been delivered where impunity once reigned; memory has been honoured where crimes had gone unpunished; and yesterday, this Assembly reaffirmed that all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism, must be defeated in the struggle for human rights.

Truly, this year has been worthy of the anniversary we mark today, and has proven to all that human rights cannot be denied where human beings live and breathe.

To the United Nations, this anniversary is more than a milestone. It is a mirror that reflects how far we have come and how long we have yet to go.

It is a mirror that at once flatters us and shames us, that bears witness to a record of progress for parts of humanity, while revealing a history and a reality of horrors for others. Above all, it teaches the United Nations that, without human rights, no peace and no prosperity will ever last.

Our mission is simple: to make every day matter in the fight to broaden the horizons of human rights until that day when no man is tortured, no woman is abused and no child is denied his dignity -- when all human beings enjoy their human rights.

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For information media. Not an official record.