In Behalf of Civil Society on the Commemoration of the 59th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration
Volume 21 Number 4
Friday, 15 January 2010 10:31
speech delivered by Carlo V. Cleofe

December 10, 2007
Palais de Nation

Fifty-nine (59) years ago, world leaders drawing from the historical sources of peoples – their faiths, beliefs and cultures as well as their struggles – gathered together to forge and ratify the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

As a declaration, the historical significance of the UDHR can be seen in the fact that the principles contained in its provisions totally reflect the aspirations of peoples for freedom, justice, equality and peace. The UDHR sets a common standard by which the obligation of the state to respect, protect, and fulfill the inherent dignity of human beings is measured.
However, despite the clarity of the principles set forth by the declaration, the reality is violations of human rights arising from state repression, internal conflicts, development aggression, and discrimination and intolerance continue to exist and undermine the full realization of rights.

The UDHR clearly states that no individual should be subjected to torture; in fact the right to be free from torture is recognized as a non-derogable right, that in any circumstance can not be rescinded. Yet in reality, in every region in the world the use of torture to extract information or to inflict punishment is a common practice by State Agents.

Even as world leaders renew and reiterate to promote and protect human rights, to uphold democracy, fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law, in reality, State repression and intolerance to opposition and criticism has led to massive cases of arbitrary arrest and detention, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and other forms of human rights violations.

The continued existence of discrimination and oppression based on descent, religious beliefs, gender and sexual preference proves that we still have a long way to go towards realizing the declaration’s principle of equality, non-discrimination, and recognition of the inherent dignity of everyone everywhere.

The fact that one fifth of the world’s population is still afflicted by poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy and insecurity is sufficient grounds for concluding that the economic, social and cultural rights of those persons are being denied on a massive scale, and that there is a failure of States either because of its unwillingness or inability to fulfill its obligation to undertake steps towards the progressive realization of rights.

Today as we commemorate the 59th anniversary of the UDHR, we in civil society should reflect on the importance of our role in ensuring that States fulfill its obligations to respect, protect and fulfill human rights. We must take a proactive stance and be ever vigilant in our work to protect and promote human rights. History has shown us that human rights was not served in a golden platter. It is a product of the peoples’ struggles to emancipate themselves from the fetters of oppression, injustice, and inequality.

I would also like to take this opportunity to commemorate those who stood up against tyranny; who defended human rights; who fought for justice; and who struggled for peace. By your sacrifice we will carry on and will always remember. And to the generations to come, may they never taste the bitterness of dictatorship; nor the loneliness of detention; nor the immeasurable pain of torture; nor the anguish of a mother looking for her son or daughter; nor the tears of a wife widowed by an assassins’ bullets. May they never experience the horrors of inhumanity.

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Last Updated on Friday, 15 January 2010 11:30

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