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UN Secretary-General urges protection of human rights "everywhere, for everyone" (12/11)

December 10, 2008
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December 10, 2008, marked the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Following is the text of United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s video message to the anniversary ceremony held yesterday in New York, according to a UN press statement:

“Mr. President of the General Assembly, Mr. President of the Human Rights Council, Madame High Commissioner for Human Rights, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I send my warmest greetings to you from Poznan, Poland, where I am attending the United Nations climate change conference.

I thank you for gathering in New York on Human Rights Day to mark the sixtieth anniversary of a landmark document.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted amid utter destruction and destitution following the Holocaust and the Second World War. It reflects humanity’s aspirations for a future of prosperity, dignity and peaceful coexistence. It is and always will be a core part of the United Nations identity.

The international community has drawn enduring inspiration from the Declaration to build a great foundation of laws that now protect countless people around the world.

We have come a long way. But the reality is that we have not lived up to the Declaration’s vision — at least not yet.

Since I took office as Secretary-General, I have been very humbled and saddened by having seen so many people whose human rights are being abused and not properly protected.

We see human trafficking, the exploitation of children and a host of other ills plaguing millions of people.

The global financial crisis and development emergency have enormous implications for the realization of human rights, including the right to development. The food and climate crises are having the most detrimental impact on those least able to bear such burdens.

And still, after all the lessons we profess to have learned, shocking acts of brutality against innocent people often go unanswered.

We cannot turn a blind eye to poverty, bigotry and repression. We have a collective responsibility to reject indifference. Human rights — indivisible and interdependent — must hold the whole world in solidarity.

The struggle for human rights would not be possible without human rights defenders who risk their lives to ensure that others are protected.

It would not be possible without human rights experts who scrutinize country reports or assess complaints.

It would not be possible without lawyers and the press; and without ordinary people who find extraordinary courage and stand up for what is rightfully theirs, yours, mine and ours.

We need to keep building up the edifice of human rights — the treaties, declarations and other instruments that set global standards and give people hope.

But most of all, we need to implement these instruments. These are living documents and should be used as such.

And we should work with urgency. There is no time to rest.

The Declaration was created as ‘a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.’ We will honour its towering vision only when its principles are applied fully everywhere, for everyone.

Thank you again for coming together to mark this milestone. Let us go forth from this anniversary more determined than ever to uphold the principles and vision of this great achievement in human affairs.”

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