“Where after all do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world.”
Eleanor Roosevelt (pictured), chair of the drafting committee of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, said these words 70 years ago when the Declaration was launched. She went on to say unless these rights have meaning close to home they will have little meaning anywhere else. This is surely something on which to reflect during International Human Rights Day on 10 December 2017.
This is a milestone document that proclaims the inalienable rights which everyone is entitled to as a human being – regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property birth or other status. The United Nations General Assembly adopted the declaration in 1948. It is the most translated document in the world available in more than 500 languages. There’s more information on the United Nations website.
Wherever you are – there will be all sorts of events to recognise the day. I’ll be attending a meeting at the Centre for Stories to discuss forming a Western Australian chapter of PEN, which is the worldwide association of writers that emphasises the role of literature in mutual understanding and world culture. PEN is also concerned with opposing restraints of freedom of expression and working to promote literacy itself.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights empowers us all and reminds us of what we all have in common – our humanity. The principles enshrined in the Declaration are as relevant today as they were in 1948. We need to stand up for our own rights and those of others.