Countdown to Human Rights Day
Get to know the climate activist working with us on human rights and climate change – Kaeden Watts
Human Rights 75 Initiative
Each month in 2023, we will place a spotlight on a wide range of human rights issues, enshrined in the Universal Declaration, in need of concrete and urgent action from States and other duty bearers. We hope our calls to action will trigger commitments from these stakeholders that they will pledge to during our Human Rights Forum in Geneva, December 2023.
The right to liberty is enshrined in international human rights law. Yet, detention is often used to silence critical voices around the globe. Environmental defenders, climate activists, people calling out discrimination and fighting for equality, those speaking up against abuses and corruption, journalists jailed for doing their essential work, defenders of migrants’ rights and trade unionists seeking to improve labour standards languish in detention facilities, sometimes for long periods – imprisoned for exercising their human rights.
For too long, we’ve relied on women and girls to provide care to sustain families, communities, and societies. At the same time, older people, persons with disabilities and children, are seen merely as passive receivers of care. Their rights, both as caregivers and care receivers, have been neglected. The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that we need to transform our support and care systems. All of us need support and care that enable us to participate in society, and to live in dignity and with choice. Rights-based support and care systems, that are gender, disability, and age responsive, are a key lever for achieving sustainable development.
Seventy-five years ago, article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirmed the equal enjoyment for all of all human rights, without distinction of any kind, including race and colour. Yet, still today, racism, often rooted in the legacies of enslavement and colonialism, continues to affect the human rights of countless people, and its contemporary forms are present both online and offline. Racism and racial discrimination harm everyone, and undermine development, peace, democracy and the rule of law. No country is free of racism and everyone – States, civil society and youth - must play their role in combating it.
As UN Secretary-General António Guterres has said, the current moment calls into question many of the economic concepts and models that inform current policies. The current economic model fails to provide prosperity for all, as can be seen by rising levels of poverty as well as growing inequalities within and among countries. In a human rights economy, economic policies, investment decisions, consumer choices and business models are guided by human rights, and the integration of human rights at each level in turn measurably enhances outcomes for all. A ‘human rights economy’ places people and the planet at the heart of policymaking. Adopting a human rights economy is crucial to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Hearing the voices of the multitude of communities and people in our societies – and ensuring they can shape decisions about their lives and their futures is key to ensure we use all of humanity’s talents and creativity for overcoming the challenges we collectively face – from climate change to increasing inequalities; from violence to growing lack of trust in institutions. New technologies, such as the internet and social media, have expanded the space for a wide range of people to speak up and reach out. At the same time, it has generated new risks in terms of censorship, privacy infringements and online threats and attacks. Preserving and expanding the space in which people can contribute to their societies is at the core of the mandate of UN Human Rights.
Women's equal and meaningful participation in decision-making is not only a question of rights, justice, and democracy but represents a necessary condition for women's rights to be respected and women’s interests to shape public decisions. Only with the active participation of women and the incorporation of women's perspectives and lived experiences at all levels of decision-making, the goals of equality, sustainable development and peace will be achieved.
Human rights are at the heart of the United Nations Charter because the drafters knew the best way to prevent another world war was to address the factors that had made the Second World War possible. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the blueprint to address the root causes of conflict. The rights set out in it include rights that help safeguard participation, liberty and the rule of law and stop oppression and totalitarianism, as well as the protection of people’s lives, livelihoods, welfare and development.
The Universal Declaration states in its first paragraph that the recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation for freedom, justice and peace in the world. Throughout its 75 years, the Universal Declaration has helped many people find justice – by changing laws and practices and providing opportunities for people to claim their rights. However, countless others are still seeking justice. Injustice and impunity affect not only those directly concerned – they affect society as a whole, undermining the rule of law, sustainable development and peace and security. Let’s take action today to invest in justice and make the Universal Declaration a reality for all!
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate emergency and other crises, global poverty has increased for the first time in over 20 years. Socio-economic inequalities within and among countries have deepened, with millions pushed deeper into poverty and more countries struggling under debt distress. Much of the progress in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has been halted or erased. Social protection, the right to development and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals are key to eradicating poverty, reducing inequalities and making sure we leave no one behind. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides for the right to social security and the right to development and is the cornerstone of the Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Business enterprises are a major source of investment, innovation, and development and can be a major driver in achieving Sustainable Development Goals. At the same time, economic activity can also pose significant risks to human rights. The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP) was developed to clarify the relationship between business and human rights and has become the authoritative global framework to prevent and mitigate human rights risks relating to business. Anchored in international human rights law, the UNGPs reiterate and elaborate on States’ obligations to protect against human rights abuse by businesses and ensure that victims of business-related abuse have access to an effective remedy.