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Human Rights Day, 10 December 2009

The focus for this year’s Human Rights Day is non discrimination. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay explains why: “We have picked non-discrimination as the theme this year because discrimination spreads mistrust and humiliation for victims and leads to violence, conflict and discord generally. We are all aware of the effects of discrimination and yet we continue to practise it.”

Embrace diversity, end discriminationPillay goes further and stamps non-discrimination as the first priority of the Human Rights Office. “Our main objective is to help promote discrimination-free societies and a world of equal treatment for all.”

Next Thursday, 10 December is Human Rights Day. Every year on this Day the global community commemorates the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Declaration, proclaimed as a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations” is not a binding document but has led to the development of more than 60 human rights instruments which constitute an international standard of human rights.

The High Commissioner will return to her home country of South Africa for Human Rights Day 2009. She is to receive an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Pretoria and will preside over a panel of high level judges sitting in the first ever Human Rights Moot Court Competition at the University of Pretoria. Students from round the world will argue a fictional human rights case on the principle of non-discrimination at the event organised by the University and supported by the Human Rights office.

On Human Rights Day there is also a public celebration planned for Freedom Park at which the High Commissioner will speak along with representatives from the Government, civil society and academia. This gathering, organised by the South African Government in partnership with the High Commissioner’s Office, will also feature a performance from the famous South African singer, Yvonne Chaka-Chaka.

In New York too, Human Rights Day is celebrated over a week which started with a special event to mark the 30th Anniversary of the major international body of law prohibiting discrimination against women – the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. It will be followed by the 12th annual student conference on human rights planned over two days with an international discussion via a video link-up of students in New York, France and Mexico as a finale.

And in Geneva, women from 28 countries will convene for an international summit, “The Courage to Lead: A Human Rights Summit for Women Leaders”. The gathering is a collaborative effort convened by the Eleanor Roosevelt Project and Vital Voices Global Partnership with the support of the Office of the High Commissioner and the International Labour Organization. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kyung-wha Kang will deliver a key-note address to delegates who will focus their discussions on the protection of human rights for women and the best ways women leaders can contribute in their own countries.

“Non discrimination is intrinsic to human rights,” Pillay says, “This year I am calling on all countries, all individuals, all over the world to embrace diversity and honour the human rights of everyone.”

4 December 2009