Human Rights Day 2023
07 December 2023
“Now, more than ever, it is time for human rights,” said UN Human Rights Chief, Volker Türk, ahead of a two-day high-level event on human rights to be held at Palais des Nations, the UN’s home in Geneva, Switzerland, and connecting online to hubs in Addis Abeba, Bangkok and Panama.
Heads of State and Government, civil society actors and human rights defenders, business leaders, sportspeople, artists and economists alike will converge on the city to craft together a vision for the future of human rights. It represents the culmination of a year-long campaign, Human Rights 75, hosted by UN Human Rights aimed at rejuvenating the spirit that led to the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by global consensus at the General Assembly on 10 December 1948.
That day, 75 years ago, representatives from different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world drafted the UDHR, a set of universal, indivisible and inalienable rights recognizing the equal dignity and worth of everyone.
The UDHR was a milestone in the history of human rights; it was the first time that the international community agreed on a set of common values and recognized that human rights are inherent to everyone, everywhere. The drafting of the Universal Declaration was also ground-breaking in the involvement of women in the shaping of its language and the inclusion of certain social and cultural rights, as well as input from representatives from what is now known as the global south.
All throughout 2023, UN Human Rights’ initiative has placed a spotlight on a wide range of human rights issues, enshrined in the UDHR, in need of concrete and urgent action from States and other duty bearers. That monthly thematic focus was accompanied by national and regional dialogues, as well as a Push for Pledges to encourage ground-breaking commitments by States and other actors towards tangible improvements in people’s human rights.
“As we mark the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, let's remember that it's not just a historical document but a living testament to our shared humanity—a timeless guide,” Türk said in his message for Human Rights Day.
UN Human Rights has pushed for the universal ratification of core human rights treaties that have established the legal obligations by States to achieve the international norms and standards inspired by the UDHR and make human rights a reality for everyone, everywhere.
“Despite conflicts that may divide us, it’s in the pursuit of peace, justice, and equality that we discover our common ground,” Türk added. “Together, we can envision a future where every individual’s rights are safeguarded, conflicts are resolved through dialogue, and peace prevails.”
Although humanity has pushed the frontiers of medicine, technology, the environment, social and political expression, economic and labour laws and other breakthroughs in the past 75 years, Türk also pointed out that the world today was experiencing levels of violent conflict not seen since the end of the Second World War, with deepening inequalities, increasing discrimination and hate speech, impunity, growing divisions and polarization, and a climate emergency.
“This underscores all the more the need for us to take stock, learn lessons, and craft a vision for the future together based on human rights. The Universal Declaration provides a promise – that we are all born equal in dignity and rights – and a blueprint for action. This event is a moment of deep reflection to seek common solutions together, centred on human rights,” he stressed.
Three days of commemoration around the world
On 10 December, Human Rights Day, UN Human Rights will hold a human rights concert with the support of artists from around the world to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December.
The High-Level Event in Geneva will take place from 11-12 December. Among the key moments on 11 December, there will be two Pledging Sessions where States will announce tangible commitments to advance human rights protection. In two segments entitled Voices in defence of human rights, participants will share their testimonies and perspectives on the impact of the Universal Declaration. Panel discussions will be held with experts looking into challenges and the way forward on the universality and indivisibility of human rights and how to strengthen the human rights system.
The Opening Ceremony of the Leaders’ Segment, taking place on 12 December, will involve a discussion with Heads of State, moderated by the High Commissioner. This will be followed by four round tables on pressing human rights issues and the future of human rights: peace and security; digital technologies; climate and the environment; and development and the economy. The roundtables, with high-level representatives from States and other actors, have been guided by discussion papers on the need to generate fresh ideas on such fundamental issues.
The Geneva High-Level Event, which will be accessible with international sign language interpretation and real-time captioning, as well as simultaneous interpretation in the six UN official languages, will be connected online to regional hubs in Bangkok, Nairobi and Panama where related discussions and events are also being organised.
The entire event will also be accessible through a virtual human rights centre that will enable up to 3,000 people to take part online.
Registrations to follow the full event online are now open.
To ensure further the global scope of the discussions, national and regional dialogues were held in the run-up to December - the latter in Addis Ababa, Bangkok, Cairo, Brussels and Santiago. In addition, a high-level event in Vienna in June marked the 30th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and of the UN Human Rights Office.
Communications assets for the HR75 initiative can be downloaded and shared on our Trello board.