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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is meaningful to all of us in different ways. As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Declaration, we’ve brought together here inspiring messages about what the Declaration means to our UN staff, our partners, and the international community.

Stay tuned for more insights!

Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
High Commissioner Türk opening statement at 52 Human Rights Council in Room 20 Palais des Nations, Geneva Switzerland. © UN Volaine Martin

“Seventy-five years ago, in a world shaken by unprecedented horror, the modern human rights movement took its source from many currents, from many cultures and traditions in the never-ending story of the pursuit of freedoms.

The great wave of independence movements, which pushed back against foreign domination, colonisation and exploitation. Anti-racist and anti-apartheid struggles, and further back, the struggle to end slavery. The labour movement. Feminism. And most recently, the fight for our lives – for environmental and climate justice.  

At a time of existential threat, States from Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and the Middle East conceived, together, a manual for the prevention of destitution, warfare and harm.

Over the past 75 years there have been profound gains and many singular achievements ­– achievements which need to be honoured, preserved, and far better funded.

We have a treaty-based system, and a whole institutional architecture for the promotion and protection of human rights – including this Council and its ground-breaking Universal Periodic Review and Special Procedures.

There is far greater awareness today of the values and commitments that underpin them.

We have also seen the growth of other innovative movements that draw on human rights principles. Among them, movements for the rights of indigenous peoples; Black Lives Matter; #MeToo; and Fridays for Future – to name a few. Young people, in particular, consistently speak in the language of human rights when giving voice to their concerns. I pay tribute to all human rights defenders of the past and present.

Human rights is a force to reckon with, not because it serves the interests of the powerful, but because it has captured the imagination of the powerless.

Still, as we know too well today, the oppression of the past can return, in various disguises.

If there was ever a moment to revitalise the hope of human rights for every person, it is now. Join me in rejuvenating the Universal Declaration, demonstrate how it can meet the needs of our time and advance its promise of freedom, equality and justice for all.

We have more in common than we think. And if we hark back to our origins – and look forward to what the world could be in the future – we can see that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights not only voices ancient wisdoms from all cultures but will ensure our survival.”  

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations
Secretary-General António Guterres opening statement at 52 Human Rights Council, Geneva Switzerland. © UN Volaine Martin

"The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted 75 years ago.

The Declaration described, for the first time, entitlements that apply to everyone, everywhere, always.

The most translated document in the world, its English version is just 1,300 words long.

But all human life is there.

The Universal Declaration sets out the rights to life, liberty and security; to equality before the law; to freedom of expression; to seek asylum; to work, to healthcare and education, and more."