On December 10, 2023, the world will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations’ adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The United Nations (UN) is celebrating this special Human Rights Day with a distinctive initiative: Human Rights 75, or HR 75.

Following World War II, the world reeled from great death, devastation, and violence. After a conflict so utterly void of humanity, horrified nations recognized the need for a form of mutually-understood unification around a baseline standard of humanitarian conduct. Soon after its formation as the UN, the international body adopted the UDHR on December 10, 1948.

The UDHR contains thirty articles that intend to guide the creation of laws. It stands “as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction”.

Much of the American Humanist Association’s (AHA) work centers around the ideals of Article 18 of the UDHR, which states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his [sic] religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his [sic] religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

While certainly easier said than done, even with a bar so low, nations all across the world fall short of their commitment to these principles. Today, we find that failure to adhere to these basic principles manifests through the proliferation of apostasy and blasphemy laws, the global rise of right-wing religious nationalism in countries like the United States, and so much more. Polarization, hate, poverty, injustice, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, erroneous claims of racial and ethnic supremacy, corporate greed, misinformation, political malice, intolerance, ignorance… all test humanity’s ability to dare to rise above the challenge.

The rolling back of reproductive rights in the United States, for example, only serves to prove what happens when we become complacent. The U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling in July 2022, overturning decades of precedent with regards to abortion access, served as a reminder that, even with popular approval, civil liberties and human rights–so long and viciously fought for, so sacred and integral to the health and success of a society–are absolutely in no way guaranteed.

It should be explicitly stated and made absolutely clear that the UDHR principles are rooted in a vision to attain freedom, equality, and justice for all: they do not leave room for exceptions to these mighty ideals. No nation or organization predicated upon the supremacy of one belief or ideology over all others can in good faith purport to claim that the UDHR principles are embodied in its work, and thus, lend legitimacy to goals that uplift dangerous ideologies. Such seizure and distortion of the values within this monumental document will only distract from efforts towards peace and progress.

We can never become apathetic, nor can we afford complacency. Who is to protect and defend the strides we’ve made, if not us? Who is to take the initiative to forge and invest in a better future, if not us? It is our duty to strive for a better world–not necessarily because a higher power would compel us to, but because it’s the right thing to do.

At perhaps the very foundation of their beliefs, humanists understand the need for strong support of civil and human rights; such ideals affirm our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good. Utilizing patience, reason, empathy, and compassion, we strengthen the way in which we cooperate and treat one another.

The post Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights appeared first on TheHumanist.com.


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