Celebrate the Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

It’s Human Rights Day! But . . . just what does that mean? What’s the history behind this celebration of the rights and responsibilities that we all share, as global citizens? 

On this day in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the UN General Assembly. Consisting of 30 Articles and drafted by delegates from nine UN member states, the UDHR spells out the fundamental rights inalienable to all people on the planet. These range from freedom from torture to the right to a fair trial to the right to education (visualized here in a series of woodcuts by Brazilian artist Otavio Roth). The need for this internationally-agreed upon set of rights came out of the trauma of World War II, and helped pave the way for decolonization and civil rights movements worldwide. 

While it’s been more than seven decades since the international community agreed on this litany of rights, they’re still routinely violated today. As the events of 2020 so starkly reveal, access to good health and well-being is often drawn on socioeconomic and racial lines. Systemic biases in policing persist, often with fatal consequences. Under the weight of the pandemic, progress in gender equality is at serious risk of erosion. 

There’s no time like the present to revisit these rights; there’s no moment like this one to act on our responsibility to uphold them. 

Happy 72nd birthday, UDHR. Here’s to hoping that the world makes good on the rights you enshrine in the coming year.

Thanks to Nomad author Julie Knutson for this guest post.


Learn more about human rights in Global Citizenship: Engage in the Politics of a Changing World. Try a sample chapter!

Global Citizenship includes investigative activities and research projects that encourage critical and creative thinking skills, along with graphic novel–style illustrations, amazing photography from around the world, and links to online resources.

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