Human Rights Day Celebrated Around the World

Every year on 10 December, Human Rights Day commemorates the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This year was also dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VDPA).

The UN Human Rights Office held several Human Rights Day events in New York, Geneva, and around the world using the 2013 slogan, 20 Years Working for Your Rights. Mexico, Lebanon, Belgium, Rwanda, Serbia, Myanmar, Kosovo*, Brazil, and South Africa are only a few samples of the Human Rights Day celebrations held throughout the world.

Conveying human rights messages through art was an approach made by the regional office in Mexico as they launched, Cine a Mano, a live art demonstration by Mexican artist Arturo López Pío. Music filled the exhibition space, while López Pío sketched the images that were displayed on a large screen for public viewing. The Office produced the live exhibition with Amnesty International Mexico, Red TDT (a national human rights NGO’s Network), and the University Claustro de Sor Juana.

In Lebanon, the National Higher Conservatory of Music organized a concert by the Lebanese Philharmonic Orchestra, which featured two musical ensembles composed for the occasion entitled, Human Rights Overture and Human Rights Cantata. The event was co-produced by the UN Human Right’s Office’s regional office in Beirut, the United Nations Information Centre in Beirut (UNIC Beirut) and the UN Resident Coordinator's Office.

A Human Rights Day event in Serbia welcomed more than 150 participants, including representatives of Ministries, civil society, NHRIs, independent institutions and regional and international organizations. The event was co-organized by OHCHR, UNDP and the Government’s Human and Minority Rights Office in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice.

In Belgium, more than 1,000 people attended an interactive performance, Shine Your Light, by Dutch multimedia creative group Pips-Lab Amsterdam. Participants were given small lights to creatively respond to a series of questions on human rights issues by writing yes or no in the air. Pips-Lab collected the answers and projected them onto a screen. The engaging performance followed a special movie screening of Fruitvale Station, which was organized by UNRIC in cooperation with BOZAR, EU and OHCHR office in Brussels.

In Rwanda, copies of the UDHR were distributed at a festive event attended by the UN community and civil society.

Interactive dialogues dominated many of the events held globally. A series of panel discussions in Kosovo* focused on the rule of law, women’s rights and the post-2015 development agenda. In Myanmar, topics covered were on anti-discrimination, the human rights situations in Rakhine and Kachin, and the importance of supporting human rights defenders.

An additional event held in Lebanon, Open Dialogue with the Media, discussed the human rights achievements over the past 20 years and future challenges. During a plenary session at Lebanese Parliament, Regional Representative Abdel Salam Sidahmed addressed Parliament on Human Rights Day.

In South Africa, OHCHR’s regional office organized the expert colloquium, Celebrating 20 years of working for human rights: the relevance and impact of human rights treaty bodies and special procedures mandates for Africa and South Africa.

In Brazil, OHCHR’s regional office held an event within the framework of the World Human Rights Forum, a conference organized by the Federal Human Rights Secretariat of Brazil. The interactive dialogue highlighted the importance of the development of human rights treaties and the treaty bodies system, most specifically the treaties and treaty bodies that were established within the last 20 years. Key participants included UN Human Rights Office Regional Representative, Amerigo Incalcaterra and Brazilian Human Rights Minister, Maria do Rosário Nunes.

Events commemorating the 20th anniversary had been celebrated previously in the lead-up to Human Rights Day in Tunisia, Austria, and Uganda, among others.

At headquarters in Geneva, the UN Human Rights Office produced a special day-long event on 5 December featuring a series of conversations on a variety of human rights issues, including human rights defenders, equality and participation in economic and political life, the World Wide Web and the free flow of information, and human rights mechanisms. Key participants included Navi Pillay, UN Human Rights Chief; Hina Jilani, former Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders; and Sir Tim Berners-Lee, computer scientist and inventor of the World Wide Web, among others.

During a special ceremony in New York on 10 December, the 2013 UN Human Rights Prize were presented to Biram Dah Abeid, Hiljmnijeta Apuk, Liisa Kauppinen, Khadija Ryadi, the Supreme Court of Justice of Mexico, and Malala Yousafzai. On the same day, a special event, Sports Comes out against Homophobia, featured professional athletes and human rights activists including tennis star Marina Navratilova, NBA basketball player Jason Collins and Anastasia Smirnova, a Russian human rights activist, among others.

16 December 2013

* Reference to Kosovo should be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council resolution 1244 and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo.

See also