On the eve of Human Rights Day, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Tuerk, launched a yearlong campaign to mark the adoption 75 years ago of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Tuerk said he hopes the campaign will renew people’s awareness and commitment to human rights and rekindle the vision that inspired the document.
He said human rights violations must be of concern to everyone. He noted that expressions of alarm and offers of aid must not be restricted to heartbreaking headline events, such as the war in Ukraine or the sanctioned killings of protesters by state security forces in Iran.
The high commissioner said the human suffering in what he calls forgotten crises must not go unreported. He cited the many killings and kidnappings by gangs in Haiti and acute hunger faced by millions there, as well as humanitarian catastrophes in Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, Mozambique and other nations.
“These and many other crisis situations that have faded from the headlines, not only have severe consequences for the people that are directly affected, but are likely to have ripple effects across borders, and risk further destabilizing their regions,” Tuerk said. “One thing they and so many other crises have in common is disregard for human rights.”
Tuerk noted that disregard for human rights can trigger multiple and interlocking human rights violations, which include racial and other forms of discrimination, violent crackdowns on dissent, and the denial of an adequate standard of living. He said hate speech can exacerbate tensions and set back rights, such as gender equality.
“The brunt of the impact of these crises is always borne by the most marginalized, the most excluded, among those in particular: women, children, migrants, indigenous peoples, internally displaced people, people with disabilities, older people, ethnic and racial minorities, and LGBTIQ-plus people,” he said.
Tuerk warned that the world is facing a crisis of trust, and the rise in social movements and protests across all regions is a sign that the institutions meant to serve people are breaking down.
Adherence to the principles set forth by the Universal Declaration can set societies back on the path toward a better future, one that is based on justice and equality for all, he said.