Advocating for peace, justice and universal human rights
On Sunday 10 December, we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We celebrate the day the nations of the world agreed to recognise, in the words of the Declaration, “the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.
The Declaration is an inspiration for people across the globe who seek to challenge and overcome injustice. Available in 370 languages, the Declaration is the most translated document on earth, and continues to be a defining statement, whether as the foundation of international human rights law, or as the catalyst for many binding international conventions – nearly all of which Australia has signed. This includes the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, endorsed by the Government, but far from being implemented.
Australia’s representative, Dr H V “Doc” Evatt, was the elected President of the UN General Assembly when the Declaration was adopted, and Australia played a key role as one of eight nations charged with drafting the declaration. This role, and Australia’s subsequent support for the advancement and realisation of the human rights of people at home and abroad, is rightly a source of pride for our country.
Today, however, Australia is the only democracy without a national Human Rights Act to guarantee that our own citizens’ fundamental rights are protected, in line with commitments our Government has already made under international law.
Internationally, Australia’s support for the human rights of all people should be unconditional and unconstrained by politics, trade, or alliances. It is the universality of the Declaration’s vision that allows it to inspire – whether children learning history in school, movements of the oppressed, or indigenous people seeking equality and self-determination – even 75 years later.
Eleanor Roosevelt, the first Chairperson of the UN Human Rights Commission was instrumental in drafting the UDHR. She said “It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.
Let’s get to work, Australia.