Solutions to World’s Problems Lie in Upholding Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Secretary-General emphasizes in Observance Message

SG/SM/19402-HR/5418-OBV/1851
10 December 2018

Solutions to World’s Problems Lie in Upholding Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Secretary-General emphasizes in Observance Message

Following are UN Secretary‑General António Guterres’ remarks at the high‑level event to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in Marrakesh, Morocco today:

The profound language and the symbolic significance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights have made it the world’s most widely translated document.  Its adoption marked the first time that countries had ever come together to recognize that all people, everywhere, share fundamental, inalienable rights.

The economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights enshrined in this foundational document belong to everyone, regardless of race, colour, gender, language, faith or opinion.  Over seven decades, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has inspired millions of women and men to demand their rights and contest the forces of oppression, exploitation, discrimination and injustice.  It has given rise to a rich body of legally binding international human rights treaties and it continues to be an inspiration to people around the world.

But the Universal Declaration is much more than a source of inspiration and a statement of principles.  Its 30 articles constitute practical measures for advancing peace and inclusive sustainable development.  It has given birth to movements by groups of all kinds, from indigenous peoples to persons with disabilities.  Its principles are embedded in national legislations and regional treaties, and more than 90 states have enshrined its language in their Constitutions.

No one ever loses their human rights, no matter what they do or who they are.  So, it is apt that the first day of this conference to adopt the Global Compact for Migration is taking place on the seventieth anniversary of the General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration.

The Compact is a new and important step towards safety and dignity for millions of people.  It sets out in practical terms how Member States and other stakeholders can respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of all migrants, in line with the Universal Declaration.

Seventy years ago, after the Holocaust and the carnage of the Second World War, our forebears drafted 30 articles that lay out the “foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.  They hoped the lessons of war would spare their children, and successive generations, from a similar fate.  We ignore these lessons and this guidance at our peril.

It saddens me to say that, in this year marking the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the human rights agenda is losing ground and authoritarianism is on the rise.  People all over the world still endure constraints on — or even total denial — of their human rights.  Torture, extrajudicial killings, detention without trial and other egregious human rights violations still persist.  Gender inequality remains a pressing issue — with untold women and girls facing daily insecurity, violence and violation of their rights.  We are also seeing a groundswell of xenophobia, racism and intolerance, including anti‑Semitism and anti‑Muslim hatred.

I am particularly concerned about the growth of intolerance and the shrinking space for civil society.  Today human rights and their defenders are under increasing pressure in all regions.  This will not solve any of the challenges the world faces.   The solutions to society’s problems lie in staying bound to our shared commitment to uphold the human rights and the inherent dignity and equality of each human being.

Human rights are the cornerstone of State sovereignty; they are a tool to help States and societies grow and be resilient.  They help empower women and girls.  They help advance development.  They help prevent conflict and ensure a just, equitable and prosperous world.

But much remains to be done to make human rights a reality for all.  As true custodians of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, your continued commitment to the rights it enshrines is critical.  Let us all keep the beacon of this towering document alight so it can guide us all on the path of peace, dignity, security and opportunity for all.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.