Human Rights Day
Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December — the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), in 1948. The UDHR is a milestone document, which proclaims the inalienable rights that everyone is entitled to as a human being – regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinions, national or social origin, property, birth or another status. UDHR is available in more than 500 languages and it is the most translated document in the world.
Although the Declaration is not a binding document, it inspired more than 60 human rights instruments, which together constitute an international standard of human rights. During these times, since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, human rights have become more recognized and more guaranteed across the globe. It has since served as the foundation for an expanding system of human rights protection that today also focuses on vulnerable groups such as persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and migrants. The High Commissioner for Human Rights Office plays a significant role in coordinating efforts for the yearly observation of Human Rights Day.
In South Africa, Human Rights Day is celebrated on 21 March, remembering the Sharpeville massacre, which took place on 21 March 1960. This massacre occurred because of protests against the Apartheid regime (a system of institutionalized racial segregation) in South Africa. South African Human Rights Day was declared a national holiday when the African National Congress was elected as the government and their leader Nelson Mandela was sworn in as the first democratically elected President of South Africa.
The 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will be celebrated on 10 December 2023. On this Human Rights Day, let’s raise awareness of how essential human rights are for each person and let’s use them every day as our compass to seek justice, equality, peace and freedom for all.