On December 10, 1948, representatives of different legal and cultural backgrounds from all around the world came together to create a milestone document: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This document enshrines the fundamental rights and freedoms of all human beings that must be universally protected.
To honor the importance of this document, Human Rights Day was formally adopted in 1950 on the anniversary of its creation. Regardless of race, color, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, every person is entitled to certain inalienable rights.
Human Rights Day creates awareness and mobilizes support for the rights of people everywhere.
Upholding Humanity’s Values
The UDHR is “a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations” that strives to promote respect for the rights and freedoms within it. Although human rights have advanced in the 74 years since the UDHR’s proclamation, new issues continue to arise—and the fight for the right to equality and human dignity is never over.
As the United Nations shares, “Whenever and wherever humanity’s values are abandoned, we are all at greater risk. The solutions to today’s greatest crises are rooted in human rights.”
Using a Human Rights Framework to Address Social Problems
Kristina Kahl, PhD, is a sociology faculty member at FRCC’s Westminster Campus and the faculty advisor for the Sociology Club. She teaches a social problems course and tries to bring the human rights perspective into her curriculum.
“I think it is so important for students to see that there is a long history behind the human rights movement,” she says. “There are 30 articles of human rights for them to read and note where they see examples of them in their own lives and communities.
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights gives us a roadmap for how to evaluate societal problems, and how to minimize inequities to the best of our ability.”
A Work in Progress
In her classroom, Kristina invites students to share ideas on how they can address social problems. “The UDHR is a great document that sparks continuous work in progress,” she says.
“My goal is to push students to think about what we want to value in our society versus what we actually value.”
Human rights must continue to be a conversation because they are still an issue, Kristina adds. “Inequities still exist, and we need to bring them to light.”
“Societies must come together to mobilize power for marginalized groups. We all need to keep human rights at the forefront of our minds.”
Joining the Movement
Supporting and protecting human rights is important, but where can you start? It begins small… and with each of us.
Here are a few ways you can get involved and make a difference:
Read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
This is a great place to begin your education about human rights. The full declaration is not long, but Amnesty International UK also created a one-page simplified version that summarizes the 30 articles.
Learn about the issues.
Vote in every election that you can, and learn about the issues and the candidates running for various positions and what they support. The more you understand people’s rights and freedoms, the more informed your voting choices will be. Your voice matters!
Support organizations doing good work.
There are many organizations out there promoting human rights every day. The website Charity Navigator can help you research and identify the nonprofits that are the most financially efficient, impactful, sustainable and well run.
There are opportunities all around you to support and fight for human rights. Explore clubs and organizations at FRCC or elsewhere that strive to protect those who need it, obliterate violence or discrimination of any kind, and help make people feel accepted for who they are.
A Student’s Perspective
Annalise Shine, vice president of the Sociology Club at FRCC’s Westminster campus, says that for her, Human Rights Day is an important reminder to learn from the past to create a better future.
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was created in 1948, just a few years after the end of World War II,” she says. “It was a significant global effort to lay out the essential rights of every human on the planet so that an atrocity like the Holocaust would never happen again.”
“But today, there are still many human rights issues happening all around the world. I think Human Rights Day is important because it reminds us of the progress we’ve made and the work that we still need to do to protect humans everywhere.”
Everyday Kindness Makes a Difference
It can be overwhelming to think about how to support human rights, Annalise admits, but she says small, everyday actions actually make a meaningful impact.
“Treating others how we want to be treated, helping someone who needs it, and being kind and respectful to those around you—those kinds of things spread positivity into the world,” she says.
“We should take the opportunities to speak out on and support human rights issues. But even just standing up for others and being good citizens—every day—can make a world of difference.”
Learn More About Human Rights Day
The United Nations website is rich with information about Human Rights Day and other international observances that promote awareness and action around the globe. We encourage you to spend time exploring current issues and efforts and ways you can get involved with those that touch your heart.
The 2022 theme of Human Rights Day is Dignity, Freedom and Justice for All. At FRCC, we believe everyone deserves to be treated with dignity in a just world where everyone has the same freedoms and rights.
With greater awareness, involvement and action from all of us, hopefully this dream will one day become a reality.