The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

On the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights


Today, we mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was born out of U.S. vision and leadership to build an international consensus around the idea of a universal standard of human dignity. The United Nation's passage of that agreement six decades ago brought hope and inspiration to people in the United States and all around the world.

The election of Barack Obama has rekindled that spark of hope and inspiration. As the new Administration faces today's daunting economic and security challenges, the same qualities of vision and leadership that brought about the Universal Declaration are needed to reverse course at home and reestablish U.S. credibility abroad. To do this, the Administration must demonstrate its resolve to end torture, close Guantanamo Bay, prosecute terrorism suspects in existing federal courts and act to end other human rights violations in connection with the fight against terrorism. In its foreign relations, it must work to build an international consensus that security is not enhanced but undermined by failing to protect human rights and take practical steps to encourage implementation of the standards set out in the UDHR on critical challenges like Darfur, discrimination and intolerance.

To this effect, Human Rights First has released a series of blueprints to guide the new administration decision making on a number of critical foreign and domestic policy related issues including: Closing Guantanamo, Ending Torture, Ending Impunity for Private Contractors, Repairing the U.S. Asylum System, and Promote Human Rights in Russia. Upcoming blueprints will address the Iraqi refugee crisis, the situation in Darfur with a focus on the Security Council's arms embargo, and the U.S. relationship with Egypt.

Without concerted action, the UDHR could be reduced to mere words on paper and the international system on human rights will become increasingly irrelevant at a time when the world needs it most.

December 9, 2008 also marks the 10th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the first international agreement to explicitly recognize the right to peacefully promote human rights. This groundbreaking Declaration provides protection to human rights activists around the world. Governments must now take firm action to stop the arrests, intimidation, and violence against those who speak out for human rights.

Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C. Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence.