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Antonio Guterres: Human Rights Part of UN’s Very Identity

UN Secretary-General's remarks to General Assembly on the 70th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

General Assembly Seventy-third session, 58th plenary meeting Human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms - Item 74 (b) Award ceremony for the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights held in accordance with General Assembly decision 73/509 of 28 November 2018.

Antonio Guterres addressed the General Assembly commemorative meeting on the occasion of the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Vienna Declaration

Seventy years ago, after the Holocaust and the horror of the Second World War, our visionary forebears drafted 30 articles that lay out what they described as the “foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”. 


The adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights marked the first time that countries had ever come together to recognize that all people, everywhere, are born free and equal and share fundamental, inalienable rights. 


The economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights enshrined in this document belong to everyone. 


Wherever we live, whatever our circumstances or place in society, our race, colour, gender or sexual orientation, language, religion, opinion, nationality or economic status, we are all equal in human rights and in dignity. 


No one ever loses their human rights, no matter what they do or who they are. 


The clarity and profundity with which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights speaks to the aspirations of people everywhere have made it the world’s most widely translated document.


Our challenge remains to translate it into reality for all people everywhere. 


The Universal Declaration is much more than a source of inspiration and a statement of principles. 


Its 30 articles constitute practical measures for advancing peace and inclusive development beyond human rights. 


Over seven decades, it has enabled women and men in all regions to claim their rights and contest the forces of oppression, exploitation, discrimination and injustice. 


In that time, people around the world have gained progressively greater freedoms and equality. 


Conditions of profound economic misery and exploitation have been improved. 


Women’s rights have advanced, along with the rights of children, victims of racial and religious discrimination, indigenous peoples and peoples with disabilities. 


And perpetrators of horrific human rights violations have been held to account for their crimes by international tribunals. 


Yet, seven decades on, there is still a long way to go. 


Women, men and children all over the world still endure constraints on – or even total denial of – their human rights. 


Torture, extrajudicial killings, detention without trial and other egregious human rights violations persist. 


Untold women and girls face daily insecurity, violence and discrimination. 


And today we are seeing a rising tide of authoritarianism, intolerance, xenophobia and racism. 


It is only by respecting and promoting human rights that we can achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda of sustainable, diverse, inclusive and peaceful societies thriving on a healthy planet. 


I understand the importance of human rights from my personal experience. 


I grew up under a dictatorship, worked in the slums of Lisbon, and later in my career saw the bitter results of human rights abuses as High Commissioner for Refugees. 


As Secretary-General, I wish to highlight that our founding Charter makes human rights part of this organization’s very identity.


Human rights are an intrinsic part of all we do – and all that we are.


Human rights inspire.  Human rights transform.  Human rights drive progress and change the course of history.


As the custodians of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, your continued commitment to the rights it enshrines is critical. 


Let us keep the beacon of this towering document alight so it can continue to guide us all on the path of peace, dignity, security and opportunity for all.  Thank you.

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