world human rights day

Image: Pramod Tiwari


The journey in defense of human dignity is present in history long before the UN

“Human rights are the foundation of human dignity, the cornerstone for peace (among people and between nations), including for building prosperous, just and equal societies” (António Guterrez, UN Secretary General, Message on world human rights day 2022).

Fighting and defending human rights means defending full life, in all its dignity and in all its dimensions or aspects. Nothing is more important than truly ensuring that all people, regardless of race, skin color, age, profession or occupation, social, economic, cultural or political condition, gender, physical condition, religion or of ideology, have their fundamental rights guaranteed, that is, all their human rights really respected, only then will we be able to build truly democratic, plural, inclusive, transparent and humane nations, societies, communities and institutions!

Respect for human rights must be the compass to guide our actions, whether as citizens in general, businessmen, religious, professionals, government agents, including, must be the central parameter to define and implement public policies, at all levels of government . If this does not happen, something very important will certainly be missing in our society and in all countries, which is Justice, including Social Justice.

On December 10, the world celebrated yet another world human rights day, similarly to what has been happening since 1948, when only 48 countries, out of the 58 that at that time were part of the newly created United Nations (UN) decided to approve Resolution 423 and establish that from then on this date we should celebrate human rights.


Dignity, freedom and justice for all

The universal declaration of human rights is based on five major dimensions: civil rights, social rights, cultural rights, economic rights and political rights.

Each year, the UN establishes a central theme, around which the celebrations must be organized, that is, to revolve actions so that Human Rights are placed in the context of a permanent topic and do not fall into oblivion. In this year 2022, the theme of the celebrations was: dignity, freedom and justice for all.

It is worth remembering that on that occasion (1948) it was only three years after the world breathed easier with the end of one of the bloodiest wars in human history that decimated between 40 and 50 million people, in Russia alone the Nazi troops killed more than 18 million people.

Faced with the atrocities of that War, whose memory was still alive, mainly against the civilian populations, as happens in all wars, from then until today in different parts of the world, the representatives of the countries that were then part of the UN decided that in addition to peace among nations, people, men and women of all countries should also be protected from all forms of violence, disrespect and abuse, whether by national states (so-called state violence), arbitrary arrests, torture by public agents, abuse of authority, slavery, forced labor camps or against cruel or disguised practices in countries such as discrimination, social and economic exclusion, poverty, hunger, misery, trafficking human rights, sexual exploitation, in short, the lack of recognition of people's intrinsic dignity.

The vision and ideals that guided that resolution approved at the plenary session of the UN General Assembly on December 04, 1948, established that December 10 in every year, from then on, would be considered the world human rights day, to be officially celebrated in all the countries that, at that time, integrated and in the future would integrate the UN, which currently are more than 193 countries and territories.

In many countries and territories this day is considered a national holiday and various activities and commemorations are held to remind both governments and the general population of the importance of human rights being truly defended and universally respected, so that we can live in societies and communities that, in fact, strive for peace, respect for people and human dignity.


The universal declaration of human rights

The UN, through the Human Rights Council, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and its various agencies, departments, committees, has made a great effort to ensure that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is fully and integrally respected and fulfilled. in all countries, both in peacetime and, and especially, in periods of armed conflict and war, when there is a total disrespect for people's dignity through acts of savagery such as torture and collective rape.

In order for people to be able to defend their inalienable human rights, it is necessary and fundamental that these rights be known. In this sense, the UN, regional organizations such as the OAS (Organization of American States), National Governments, Entities Representative of Organized Civil Society, political parties, social movements have promoted the publication of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It is often said that people can only defend their rights if, in fact, they know what those rights are. Thus, the Declaration of Human Rights is among the most translated works in the world, until 2019, in 501 languages, the last translation being in Quechua, in Bolivia.

The text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is relatively small, only 5 or 6 pages, containing the preamble, the foundations that inspired its approval and its 30 articles and thus, all people can be aware of their universal rights, and practically all these rights are directly or indirectly part of the various Constitutions of the countries and the national legal order of these countries, including Brazil.

What is really missing is that both the text of the Declaration of Human Rights and all the other conventions and agreements that the UN approves in its General Assemblies and which all countries adhere to, do not remain a “dead letter”, or as if it says: “for the English to see” and become known, respected and defended by all people and civil, military and ecclesiastical institutions, and also the communication vehicles, but, mainly, by the governmental institutions, which have the primacy in this advocacy and dissemination.

In the case of Brazil, the judicial system includes two fundamental institutions that must be at the service of society and not of the rulers on duty and that are fundamental so that not only what appears in the Declaration of Human Rights in a generic way, but all the rights of people established in the national legal system and in international agreements and treaties, of which Brazil is a party.

These institutions are the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office and the State Public Prosecutor's Office, as well as another institution that aims to assist people who lack financial and human resources to defend their own rights.

Thus, in addition to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN has approved a series of agreements and conventions that guarantee rights in various specific segments such as workers' rights (ILO), Children's and Adolescents' Rights (UNICEF), Women's Rights, Elderly Rights , Consumer rights, Disabled people's rights; rights of indigenous peoples, rights of refugees; Law of the sea; Right to racial equality and not to be discriminated against due to racial or ethnic origin and other aspects that also generate individual or collective rights.

There are so-called diffuse rights that are also universal human rights and must be recognized as such, such as the right to a healthy and sustainable environment; the right to housing, the right to work with decent wages and conditions, the right to health, the right to access land, the right to travel (right to come and go); right to leisure, right to public education, inclusive and of quality; right to food, water, basic sanitation, etc.

Finally, the journey in defense of human dignity is present in history long before the UN proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, for centuries, millennia we have witnessed several struggles and even revolutions that took place in this sense and, incredible as it may seem, still today human rights remain unknown to many people, which is why disrespect and arbitrariness against people are still very present in all countries, including Brazil.

Finally, I transcribe below some aspects contained in the Declaration of Human Rights, as a way of disseminating them on this occasion. It is important to know, for example, the Preamble of the aforementioned Declaration, which are the foundations on which such rights were established. Let's see this preamble: “Considering that the recognition of the inherent dignity of all members of the human family and of their equal and inalienable rights constitutes the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world; Considering that ignorance and contempt for human rights have led to acts of barbarism that revolt the conscience of Humanity and that the advent of a world in which human beings are free to speak and believe, freed from terror and misery, was proclaimed as the highest inspiration of Man; Considering that the protection of human rights through a rule of law is essential, so that man is not compelled, as a supreme resource, to revolt against tyranny and oppression; Whereas it is essential to encourage the development of friendly relations between nations; Considering that, in the Charter, the peoples of the United Nations once again proclaim their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women, and declare their determination to promote the social progress and to establish better living conditions within a wider freedom; Considering that member states have undertaken to promote, in cooperation with the United Nations, universal and effective respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; Considering that a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the highest importance for the full realization of this commitment: The General Assembly proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement by all peoples and all nations, in order to that all individuals and all organs of society, keeping society constantly in mind, strive, through teaching and education, to develop respect for these rights and freedoms and to promote, by progressive measures of a national and international order, the its universal and effective recognition and application both among the populations of the Member States themselves and among those of the territories placed under their jurisdiction”.

Several of these articles, such as the ones I transcribe below, explain the context in which these fundamental rights are inserted, it is worth knowing in order to know how to fight and defend these rights.

Article 1 All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. endowed with reason and conscience, should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 3 Every individual has the right to life, liberty and personal security.

Article 5 No one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 7 All are equal before the law and, without distinction, are entitled to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 9 No one may be arbitrarily arrested, detained or exiled.

Article 12° No one will suffer arbitrary interference in his private life, his family, his home or his correspondence, nor attacks on his honor and reputation. Against such interference or attacks, everyone is entitled to the protection of the law.

Article 18 Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, as well as freedom to manifest his religion or belief, alone or in community, both in public and in private, through teaching, practice, worship and rites.

Article 21 1. Everyone has the right to take part in the public affairs of his country, either directly or through freely chosen representatives. 2. Everyone has the right of access, on equal terms, to public functions in their country. 3. The will of the people is the foundation of the authority of the public powers: and it must be expressed through honest elections to be held periodically by universal and equal suffrage, with secret ballot or an equivalent process that safeguards freedom of vote.

Article 22 Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security; and can legitimately demand the satisfaction of indispensable economic, social and cultural rights, thanks to national efforts and international cooperation, in harmony with the organization and resources of each country.

Article 23 1. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of work, to just and satisfactory conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. 2. Everyone has the right, without any discrimination, to equal pay for equal work. 3. Anyone who works has the right to fair and satisfactory remuneration, which will allow him and his family an existence in keeping with human dignity, supplemented, if possible, by all other means of social protection. 4. Everyone has the right to form trade unions with others and to join trade unions to defend their interests.

This is an opportune time for all sectors of Brazilian society, including schools, universities, unions, neighborhood associations; in churches and, of course, in all public institutions, in all powers, at its various levels, to establish some channels of dialogue to reflect on this crucial and fundamental theme for the present and future of our Brazil.

“For human rights and their defenders, let us pray for those who risk their lives fighting to guarantee equal rights for all. This fight requires courage and determination. It means actively opposing poverty, inequality, lack of work, land, housing, social and labor rights'. (Pope Francis, 2021).

*Juacy daSilva is a retired professor of sociology at UFMT.


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