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Human Rights Month: All You Need to Know

Every year in December, countries all over the world, as well as international organizations and NGOs, mark the International Human Rights Month to honor the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. During this month, people from across the world are encouraged to come together and invite their countries to celebrate dignity, justice and equality of all people.

How did Human Rights Month start?

The formal beginning of Human Rights Month dates back to 1950, after the General Assembly passed the resolution 423 (V) when all states and committed organizations were invited to commemorate 10th of December as an International Human Rights Day. Human Rights Month is celebrated in December because the UN General Assembly adopted the  Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10th of December in 1948.

The idea of adopting an International Bill of Human Rights was conceived in June 1947. Initially there were two views regarding the shape, the Bill of Human Rights should take, one being in the form of a Declaration, which is not legally binding on states, and the other being in the form of a Convention, which was to be ratified by states as well as legally binding. Consequently, the Drafting Committee of the General Assembly prepared two documents. The first document was a preliminary draft of a declaration that set out general principles, while the second document came in a form of a Convention on specific rights.

During the second session in May 1948, the Drafting Committee redrafted some parts of Declaration and produced a new draft Covenant. Until June 1948, the Commission on Human Rights completed re-drafting the declaration which was then transmitted to the General Assembly. The draft declaration was discussed from 30 September to 7 December 1948. During 81 meetings, 168 amendments were discussed and submitted.

Finally, with 48 states in favor and eight abstentions on the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10th of December 1948, the historic document was set out as ‘’a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations’’ inviting both societies and individuals to achieve national and international progressive measures when it comes to universal and effective recognition of human rights.

What is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights sets out fundamental rights and freedoms for all people. It was drafted by representatives coming from different legal and cultural backgrounds from different areas of the world. Thus, it was proclaimed as a common standard of achievement for all people and all nations. It represents a milestone document in the history of human rights and it has been translated into over 500 different languages.

Human rights are inherent to all human beings, regardless of their race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other trait that defines their identity. Human rights cover almost all aspects of life and include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of expression and opinion and many more. Human rights are to be enjoyed by everyone without discrimination.

Although the Declaration encompasses a colorful spectrum of political, civil, social, cultural and economic rights, it is not a legally binding treaty. Nevertheless, the state domestic courts frequently invoke the Declaration since it has heavily influenced the development of human rights law and national laws. The Universal Declaration recognizes that ‘’the inherent dignity of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world’’. It sets out the standard of universality of human rights that are to be enjoyed by all people regardless of who they are or where they live.

Regardless of the Declaration’s non-obligatory nature, it still has inspired the adoption of more than 60 human rights instruments, which together constitute an international standard of human rights.  As a result of Declaration, the UN has defined a wide range of internationally accepted rights encompassing specific standards to protect rights of children, women, persons with disabilities, minorities and other groups. A series of international human rights treaties that were adopted since 1948 include the International Convention on the Eliminations of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.