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Dignity, Liberty and Justice for All: Celebrate the UDHR at 60

Nahal Zamani,
Human Rights Program
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October 6, 2008

This December 10, 2008, marks the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by 48 countries — almost the entire membership of the U.N. at the time. The UDHR describes “the inherent dignity and … the equal and inalienable rights” of all members of the human family. The 30 articles that appear in the UDHR describe fundamental human rights; they include the right to life, liberty and security of person; the right to an adequate standard of living; the right to seek asylum; the right to freedom of expression; the right to education; and the right to freedom from torture; among others.

Although the United States was one of the principal forces behind the creation of the UDHR, and claims to be an international leader in human rights, our own commitment to the UDHR has been undermined by its double standard approach where very often it was unwilling to apply the principles of the UDHR at home.

Today the ACLU announced the launch of a YouTube video contest for young human rights activists. Check out the instructions on our website on how to enter . The winner of the contest will receive round-trip airfare and lodging in New York City to accompany a delegation from the ACLU to the December 10, 2008, session of the United Nations General Assembly. On that day, the assembly will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Sixty years after the signing of the UDHR, the U.S. government is quick to point out other countries’ human rights abuses, while allowing our own protection of basic human rights and dignities to degrade. The United States cannot claim to be a leader on the issue of human rights when it inadequately responds to the needs of thousands of displaced people following Hurricane Katrina , very often turns a blind eye to racial and ethnic discrimination , is complicit in the administration of corporal punishment in our public schools and sentencing of juveniles to life without possibility of parole, denies justice to survivors of domestic violence and has people indefinitely detained and tortured in the name of national security.

The fundamental rights outlined in the UDHR clearly must also be protected here at home. Let’s raise awareness of U.S. obligations and shortcomings under the UDHR and international human rights law, in light of the upcoming 60th anniversary of this inspiring document.

Read the UDHR and share it with your friends, family and community. Enter the video contest and voice the UDHR in your own words. Sign the petition and ask your government to recommit to the UDHR.

Let’s pledge to dignity, liberty and justice for all. Let’s recommit to the UDHR.

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