Sustainable development not possible if fellow humans are denied their rights, says UN DESA’s Liu Zhenmin

The United Nations commemorated today at its New York Headquarters the Human Rights Day and kicked off a year-long campaign to honour the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which next year marks its 70th anniversary.

“Over seven decades, this mighty document has helped to profoundly change our world,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the event. “It establishes the equality and dignity of every human being.  It stipulates that every Government has a duty to enable all people to enjoy their inalienable rights and freedoms.  And it establishes that these rights are universal.”

The Universal Declaration proclaimed the inalienable rights of every human being regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. It is the most translated document in the world, available in more than 500 languages.

Mr. Guterres noted humanity’s considerable progress over the last seven decades. “People around the world have gained progressively greater freedoms and equality.  They have been empowered to oppose discrimination, fight for protections, and gain greater access to justice, health, education and development opportunities.  Conditions of profound economic misery and exploitation have been improved.”

But despite these achievements much remains to be done, said the Secretary-General, with recognition of the inherent dignity and equal rights of humans still far from universal, with millions of people suffering human rights violations and with human rights defenders facing persecution and reprisals.

For his part, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Liu Zhenmin, pointed to the strong relationship between human rights and sustainable development, noting that the Universal Declaration is not only “the foundation [for] a world in which people enjoy freedom of speech and belief” but also a “freedom from fear and want.”

“The achievement of full human potential and of sustainable development is not possible if fellow human beings are denied their rights,” said Mr. Liu. “Nor can there be full enjoyment of human rights without sustainable development.”

Mr. Liu added that the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will depend on “building the resilience of the poorest, most vulnerable and those furthest behind.” He reaffirmed UN DESA’s commitment to supporting all Member States in eradicating poverty, creating decent jobs, providing quality healthcare and education, and achieving gender equality.

Also speaking at the event, the President of the United Nations General Assembly, Miroslav Lajčák, welcomed the launch of the year-long campaign, “which rallies us all to Stand Up for Human Rights. If we follow the news; if we talk to people from different backgrounds and countries; if we attend events in this building – then we know that a campaign like this is needed now more than ever,” he said.

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