Universal Declaration of Human Rights is still powerful after 64 years

By From page A15 | December 02, 2012

By Verena Borton

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 64 on Monday, Dec. 10.

Adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on Dec. 10, 1948, the document owes much of its content to the diligence and perseverance of Eleanor Roosevelt, head of the U.N. team that drafted the declaration.

In this remarkable global effort to protect the rights of everyone, governments for the first time agreed that people everywhere would thereafter be entitled to rights, be entitled to know what they are and be entitled to claim them.

Almost every nation has adopted the declaration. Without being legally binding, this act represents a moral obligation to make the goals of universal human rights a reality. Much has been accomplished, but a great deal more remains to be done. The struggle for human rights dominates life in all corners of the world today.

At 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will be read in 30 languages (followed by English translations), illustrating both the diversity of our community and the universality of the declaration, at International House, 10 College Park.

The Davis chapter of the United Nations Association observes this anniversary each year and invites community members to join in the event to reflect on such basic truths as “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” (Article 3)

Copies of the declaration will be available as a gift from the United Nations Association for all who attend, to be kept as a permanent reminder of this powerful guide to human rights everywhere.

Some have wondered why we read the declaration in the relatively intimate setting of the Community Room at International House, rather than at a bigger venue. We draw our inspiration from Eleanor Roosevelt, who remarked, “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home — so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works.

“Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”

This statement rings as true today as it did when pronounced many decades ago.

— Verena Borton, a longtime Davis resident, is president of the United Nations Association of the United States of America, Davis chapter.

Special to The Enterprise

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