An essential element in the protection of human rights is a widespread knowledge and understanding among people of what their rights are and how they can be defended. The date was chosen to honour the United Nations General Assembly's
adoption and proclamation, on 10 December 1948, of the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights (UDHR), the first global enunciation of human rights. The commemoration
was established in 1950, when the General Assembly invited all states and interested
organizations to celebrate the day as they saw fit.
The day is a high point in the calendar of UN headquarters
in New York City, United States, and is normally marked by both high-level political
conferences and meetings and by cultural events and exhibitions dealing with
human rights issues.
In addition, it is traditionally on 10 December that the
five-yearly United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights and Nobel Peace
Prize are awarded. Many governmental and nongovernmental organizations active
in the human rights field also schedule special events to commemorate the day,
as do many civil and social-cause organisations.
The theme for 2006 was the struggle against poverty, taking
it as a human rights issue. Several statements were released on that occasion,
including the one issued by 37 United Nations Special Procedures mandate holders:
"Today, poverty prevails as the gravest human rights
challenge in the world. Combating poverty, deprivation and exclusion is not
a matter of charity, and it does not depend on how rich a country is. By tackling
poverty as a matter of human rights obligation, the world will have a better
chance of abolishing this scourge in our lifetime....Poverty eradication is
an achievable goal."
—UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour,
10 December, 2006.
The 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights occured on December 10, 2008, and the UN Secretary-General had launched
a year-long campaign to lead up to this anniversary. Because the UDHR holds
the world record as the most translated document (with more than 360 language
versions available), organizations around the globe will be able to use the
year to focus on helping people everywhere learn about their rights.
The Declaration is now available in over 360 languages and
is the most translated document in the world - a testament to its universal
nature and reach. Sixty years on, we pay tribute to the extraordinary vision
of the Declaration’s original drafters and to the many human rights defenders
around the world who have struggled to make their vision a reality.
The Declaration belongs to each and everyone of us –
read it, teach it, promote it and claim it as your own.