Statement by the Secretary General Thomas E. Garrett on Human Rights Day

On Human Rights Day, I want to highlight the pivotal role of civil society and young people as powerful human rights champions and pay tribute to those who lost their liberty and lives defending human dignity and freedom.

Adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a milestone in the world’s modern history and laid the foundations for an existing human rights architecture that enabled millions of people to gain freedom, dignity, and respect for their fundamental rights and freedoms.

Despite the significant progress achieved in the global protection of human rights, we commemorate the 75th anniversary of this landmark document in uncertain times marked by attempts of authoritarian powers to devalue universal human rights, resulting in immense pain and suffering.

Democracy remains the only system of governance based on respect for all human rights. In its work to promote and protect democracy worldwide, core democratic principles guide the Community of Democracies, as outlined in its founding document, the Warsaw Declaration, which draws upon the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and states in Warsaw Declaration Principle 19  “that all human rights – civil, cultural, political and social –  be promoted and protected as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights instruments.”

Adopted 75 years ago, the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights meet the needs of modern times. Still, we need deep reflection on the state of human rights in the world as well as new political commitments and urgent joint action to advance the protection of human rights and ensure the safety of human rights defenders. Human rights should always be central to developing responses to global problems, from conflict resolution to climate change, migration, and digitalization.