It was the first international human rights treaty, adopted immediately after the Second World War. The treaty soon gave birth to two other treaties on civil and political rights, and social, economic and cultural rights. This triumvirate of human rights treaties, known as international bill of rights, not only guarantees fundamental rights to life and expression, but also the right to self determination.
Coming at a time Africa was under colonial rule, the adoption of Universal Declaration on Human Rights therefore, was a huge declaration of political intention on the part of world leaders at the time to promote human liberty and that never again will they allow atrocities such as those witnessed in the war happen again.
The theme for this year’s is: Human rights 365. This is interpreted to mean that every day of the year is a human rights day. Well, sixty years on, we still have not witnessed another world war. However, the world continues to reel in the face of external aggression and invasion and civil strives and their resultant gross violations of human rights. Aggravating the situation is the abuse of human rights by powers that be. Refugees are in the millions. Child soldiers, rape, et cetera are still a reality. According to the UN agency for children, Unicef, 40 million children below the age of 15 suffer from abuse and neglect. Unicef estimates that more than 300,000 children under 18 are currently being exploited in over thirty armed conflicts worldwide. While the majority of child soldiers are between the ages of 15 and 18, some are as young as 7 or 8 years of age.
One in every six children aged 5 to 17, are involved in child labor, according to the International Labour Organisation. It is estimated that there are 27 million people in the world today who are enslaved. Every year 600,000 to 800,000 persons are trafficked across international borders.
These and other statistics reveal an appalling human rights situation. The need for effective enforcement of the instruments is therefore crucially needed. Every day is indeed a human rights day when we put together the incalculable loss of precious human lives or the neglect and abuse of rights. In a time when technology has advanced to such magnificent heights, it should at best be used for the preservation of the human selfhood and dignity.
Human rights are not just man-made. Substantially, human rights treaties have divine sanctity. They’re to be honoured and respected by all and sundry. Every human being has a right to life. Everyone has the right to information and to express themselves without fear, so the world should be agitating for the release of the Al-Jazeera staff that are still under custody in Egypt. The protection of the human rights of people is the surest guarantee of good governance, peace and justice. Without it, the world could just be a place where the Darwinian law of survival of the fittest will thrive.
So, as the world celebrates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the world leaders might as well remember that it takes more than oratory and rhetoric to transform our commitments into reality.]]>