THE COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS OF THE PHILIPPINES
On the Occasion of the Celebration of the 60th Anniversary
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
10 October 2008
Commission on Human Rights, Quezon City
LEILA M. DE LIMA
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines
Good morning! A very pleasant morning to all of you who made it here today!
In behalf of the Commission on Human Rights, I welcome all of you to the kick-off ceremony for the celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
On 10 December 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Forty-eight (48) voted in its favor, zero (0) against, and eight (
abstained (all Soviet Bloc states, South Africa and Saudi Arabia).
Every year, on the 10th of December, individuals, community and religious groups, human rights organizations, parliaments, governments and the United Nations commemorate the adoption of the UDHR. For this year, the theme is “Dignity and justice for all of us.” According to the UN, the theme “reinforces the vision of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as a commitment to universal dignity and justice. It is not a luxury or a wish-list. The UDHR and its core values, inherent human dignity, non-discrimination, equality, fairness and universality, apply to everyone, everywhere and always. The Declaration is universal, enduring and vibrant, and it concerns us all.”
As the UDHR celebrates its entry into the ripe age of 60, it is important to remember the people who had a hand in its eventual adoption on that late night in December 1948. It is important to remember all those people because they were pebbles in a pond; they were people whose acts had ripple effects that reached far and beyond their own time and their own personal circles. These, of course, include the drafters, headed by John Peters Humphrey of Canada, and the world leaders and States of the time who voted for its adoption. We must note, though, that just about everyone who had ever lived, everyone who had any impact on history, also had a hand in the genesis of the UDHR.
The UDHR was not the product of a few months’ or even a few years’ or decades’ deliberations. The UDHR was the product of thousands of years of civilization; of the chain of victories, defeats, mistakes and acts of good judgment of everyone who had ever walked the face of the earth. When the first human beings were born, the right to life began to crystallize. When the first human community or family began to hunt and gather, the idea of the right to food began to form.
Despite the thousands of years of experience that are supposed to have guided us to where we are today, however, the world we live in today is still far from perfect. It is true that, to a great extent, progress was made when the Declaration was adopted, especially