On December 10th, 2023, we mark the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a milestone that invites us to reflect on its international impact. This global pledge, created from the aftermath of World War II, stands as a testament to our shared commitment to a world where freedom, equality, and justice are fundamental.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: A Historical Landmark
In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the UDHR, a historic document that outlines fundamental human rights for all individuals, transcending factors such as race, religion, gender, and political opinion. Available in over 500 languages, it holds the distinction of being the most translated document globally. Formed in response to the atrocities of World War II, the UDHR emerged with the establishment of the United Nations, and embodies a collective vow to prevent such horrors from happening again.
The Evolution of Human Rights:
Over the past seven decades, the UDHR has paved the way for human rights protections world-wide. However, in the face of past and present challenges such as pandemics, global conflicts, wars, inequality, racism, and climate change, the values enshrined in the UDHR face unprecedented threats.
The Call to Action:
This year's theme, "Freedom, Equality, and Justice for All," serves as a reminder of our collective responsibility to uphold human rights. The UDHR warns that abandoning humanity's values poses risks for us all. In a world coping with crises, the UDHR encourages us to work together and play our part in standing up for the rights of all.
Curious about Canada's contribution to the UDHR? For good reason! In fact, Canada played a central role in its creation. John Humphrey, a Canadian Lawyer and Diplomat born in New Brunswick, was appointed the Director of Human Rights for the United Nations from 1946-1966. It was Humphrey, with assistance from others, who wrote the original draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
It wasn't until a first draft found in Humphrey's handwriting was discovered much later that he received formal recognition, but finally in 1988 he then went on to receive the United Nations Prize for human rights advocacy.
- To read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in it's entirety, visit the United Nation's Website: HERE
- Each year, this commemorative date has a new theme. To explore this year's theme, check out the United Nation's Key Messaging for this year's 75th Anniversary.
- If you would like to learn more about what YOUR human rights are, how they are protected in Canada, and how to file a complaint if you have been discriminated against, you can find this information on the Government of Canada's website: HERE.
(This site is also great to learn more about rights specific to certain groups such as Indigenous Peoples, people with disabilities, transgender persons, and more. You can also learn about your rights in the workplace, or language rights!)
You may also be wondering, "So, what can I do to show my support for this day, or how can I participate in celebrating Human Rights Day?"
Start Here: Check out these suggestions from the Government of Canada:
- Visit the United Nations Human Rights Day website.
- Watch a film from the Human Rights Playlist curated by the National Film Board of Canada.
- Learn more about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
- Discover the history of human rights in Canada through the Canada History Week digital magazines (2017 and 2019 editions).
- Explore the Canadian Museum for Human Rights’ Story Collection.
- Learn about significant human rights milestones from the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
- Download the illustrated version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and share it with family.
- Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action (PDF version, 299 KB) and choose one that you will act on.
- Share any of the links provided above with your social networks.
Want to learn more about Human Rights from our collection? Explore our Staff Pick List for a curated list of nonfiction titles on civil rights, women's rights, and Indigenous rights, below. Enjoy!
A list of non-fiction books, eBooks, and articles about Human Rights. This list includes books on civil rights, women's rights and Indigenous rights.