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Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

The UDHR: A prevention tool to achieve peace and sustainable development

Seventy Years

26 September 2018

High level side event

Statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet

New York, 26 September 2018

Distinguished Ministers,
My dear predecessors as High Commissioner,
Distinguished panelists,
Colleagues, friends,

It is a great honor to be present among you, as the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in this 70th year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Seventy years is a lifespan. But the Universal Declaration is strong and alive.

It has stirred the hearts of generations.

It has empowered millions to march, to come together and to build progress.

Women and men have demanded an end to discrimination, tyranny and exploitation. They have affirmed their rights to greater freedom and independence, and to fair access to justice, fundamental services and economic opportunities.

We can measure the power and the value of those achievements. Globally, human life has immensely improved – in health, education, sustained development, less marginalization and abuse of many minorities.

Conflicts have been prevented. Disputes have been resolved by the impartial workings of justice.

In many cases, discrimination has grown less harsh. Societies have become more open, more inclusive, and more respectful. And governments have grown in their understanding that they should serve the needs and rights of their people.

We still have a long way to go, but in the past 70 years, humanity has moved a thousand steps forward.

I am convinced that the human rights ideal has been one of the most constructive movements of ideas in human history – as well as one of the most successful.

But today, that progress under threat.

In many countries, the fundamental recognition that all human beings are equal, and have inherent rights, is under attack. And the institutions set up by States to achieve common solutions are being undermined.


Human rights are the interlocking elements that build resilient and confident societies – societies able to withstand and surmount threats, peacefully resolve disputes, and facilitate sustained progress in prosperity and well-being for all their members.

Every step towards greater implementation of the human rights agenda is an act of prevention ­– strengthening the bonds between communities, and reinforcing inclusive development and peace.

Every step away from it tugs us down, towards suffering, injustice, hatred and conflict.

When human rights are wronged – when violations and abuses generate explosive crises and conflicts – bloodshed, wrecked economies and human devastation are the unbearable results.


This anniversary is an important reminder of why the United Nations came to be, and the purpose we must serve today.

The core of the UN – its backbone – is our shared conviction, forged out of destruction and suffering, that every human being is equal in dignity and in rights.

We can achieve this vision. There is a way forward – and it is to fight back.

We must marshal our convictions, our values, and overcome hatred, exploitation and division.

And we must work towards this vision together: Nations, United.

Because human security is indivisible. Our world is connected. We are all connected. Crises, conflict and deprivation generate negative spillover. And, as the Universal Declaration tells us: it is fairness and dignity, which sustain development, for all humanity.

It is justice, and equality, that bring peace.

I thank you.