International Human Rights Day 2011
Saturday December 10th is International Human Rights Day, marking the 63rd anniversary of the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
63 years since over 50 nations, in the moral, political and economic aftermath of World War II managed to agree a set of inalienable rights that that ignored differences of race, gender, religion or wealth and protected the rights of all human beings.
It took two years to draft and went on to inspire the newly formed Council of Europe to set about giving effect to the UDHR in the form of the European Convention on Human Rights, ratified by the United Kingdom (one of the first countries to do so) in 1951. Finally, of course, these rights and freedoms were given the protection of UK law in 1998 with the introduction of the Human Rights Act.
It was a monumental achievement worth remembering and celebrating. Without the UDHR, it’s likely that rights we now take for granted - to be treated with dignity and respect, to not suffer violence, invasions of privacy, discrimination, or slavery, to speak our minds and believe what we like and to be tried fairly if accused of a crime - would not have the protection of law that they have now under the Human Rights Act.
This year Liberty celebrated with the culmination of our Write Human Rights schools competition and a prize-giving event with our winners and judges at Liberty House. A year after we launched the writing competition as part of our Common Values campaign and invited 4 - 16 year olds from across the country to get informed and creative about the history and significance of their rights and the law that protects them, our judges Anthony Horowitz, Simon Prosser and Ali Smith finally handed over prizes and certificates for the most thought-provoking and inspirational entries.
To hear children read their entries and understand so easily, the principles that the UDHR first attempted to enshrine and protect, and to express so simply - with beauty, humour and humanity - the universal principles that many in the adult world still struggle to grasp, was a fascinating end to an intriguing project.
In a year in which we’ve watched in awe as people around the world fought for their most basic rights and freedoms, oppressive regimes fell and newly enfranchised nations took their first steps towards democracy - remembering the history of our struggle to recognise and protect those essential values that underpin our own precious democracy has never been more vital.