United Nations Launches Fiftieth Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

New York, 5 December 1997 -- The observance of Human Rights Day this year will mark the launch of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the General Assembly on 10 December 1948, at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris. Since then, Human Rights Day has been commemorated on 10 December each year to mark the adoption of this landmark document.

The tragedies and horrors endured by people during the Second World War prompted the international community to adopt a document that would foster respect for fundamental rights and freedoms as well as recognize the importance of the universality, indivisibility, and interdependence of human rights.

The Declaration was one of the first major achievements of the United Nations in the field of human rights. Its principles have been enshrined in and continue to inspire national legislation and the constitutions of many newly independent states. References to the Declaration have been made in charters and resolutions of regional intergovernmental organizations as well as in treaties and resolutions adopted by the United Nations system. Although the Declaration, which comprises a broad range of rights, is not a legally binding document, it has inspired more than 60 United Nations human rights instruments which together constitute an international standard of human rights.

The year 1998 marks the fiftieth anniversary of this historic document. The theme "All Human Rights for All" reinforces the idea that human rights -- civil, cultural, economic, political and social -- should be taken in their totality and not disassociated from one another. All activities planned for the year will culminate with the actual anniversary on 10 December 1998.

The year 1998 also marks the five-year review of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted at the World Conference on Human Rights, held in Vienna (Austria) in June 1993. There, 171 countries reiterated the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights, and reaffirmed their commitment to the Universal Declaration.

The anniversary year is a time for peoples and societies around the world to:

It is a time for Governments to:

Human rights cut across all the work of the United Nations, from peacekeeping, child rights and health to the rights of women and indigenous peoples. It includes the right to education as well as to social and economic development. It is all the more important because it falls during the Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004).

At United Nations Headquarters, a special event will launch the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration on 10 December 1997. Opening remarks will be presented by Hennadiy Udovenko, President of the General Assembly. Keynote addresses will be given by Hillary Rodham Clinton, First Lady of the United States of America, and Nafis Sadik, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund.

Presentations by other eminent speakers will be on the themes: "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: individual rights versus collective rights" and "Human rights education campaign, a step towards strengthening respect for human rights". Speakers include Wole Soyinka, Nobel Prize Laureate for Literature; Kamalesh Sharma, Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations; and Olara Otunnu, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children. Samir Sanbar, Assistant Secretary-General for Public Information, will serve as moderator for the event. The video message of the Secretary-General on the occasion of Human Rights Day will be shown. There will also be a message from the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Published by the United Nations Department of Public Information - December 1997