The Declaration 60 Years On: A Triumph of Humanity; (Statement at the UN Human Rights Council 7th Session, United Nations Human Rights Council March 2008, Geneva, Switzerland.)

Article excerpt

Byline: Foreign Affairs Secretary ALBERTO G. ROMULO

SIX decades ago, our nations were drawn together in an historic undertaking. The world was reeling then from the ravages of a global war.

Foremost in our minds was the knowledge that the tyranny of rulers and the technology of warfare can unleash an unprecedented capacity to hurt, maim and destroy.

We vowed never to allow that to happen ever again.

As one undivided and indivisible family, we vowed together to uphold the sanctity of the human person, to promote human rights, and to protect man and woman from every force that would violate their beings.

Drafting the Declaration

Drafting the Universal Declaration on Human Rights was a difficult undertaking.

As a member of the very first Commission of Human Rights, the Philippines takes pride in its role in formulating the Universal Declaration.

The Philippine delegation - led by General Carlos P. Romulo - explained the Draft Declaration thus:

"The primary purpose of the Declaration is not simply to achieve a moral success, but to enable man, all over the world to develop his rights and, in consequence, his personality. It is essential that he should feel confident that the executive, legislative and judicial powers could not impair his fundamental rights."

In the final debate before action was taken at the Plenary of the General Assembly, General Romulo noted:

"The United Nations has been on trial for its life, and it is at this very moment that it has justified its existence before an anxious world by producing the Declaration."

In the end, despite the divergence of views, the world acted with resolve, found common ground and adopted the Declaration during the 3rd General Assembly.

Continuing and emerging challenges

Sixty years later, we find ourselves in a world drastically changed--yet ironically the same in many respects.

We have clearly advanced in upholding, protecting and promoting human rights.

But we continue to face both traditional and new challenges to human rights.

Non-state forces such as terrorist gangs -preying on ignorance and poverty--wreak havoc on innocent populations, violating their basic human right to live in peace.

But our resolve remains firm: We must continue to move on in our common cause.

The Philippine resolve

We are proud that the Philippines itself has made steady progress in upholding, protecting, and promoting human rights.

Our democracy - the oldest in Asia - was founded on the sanctity of human life and the dignity of the human person.

We have abolished capital punishment.

We protect the life of the unborn.

We have kept alive our tradition of political liberties by strengthening democratic institutions and processes that make our Government representative, limited and accountable.

We are working with our people - within Government and with civil society - and with the international community to advance human rights.

Already, we have strengthened the capacities and capabilities of our agencies to protect and promote human rights.

The Philippines is one of the few countries to have ratified all seven core international human-rights treaties.

Last year, I signed the Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons. We also signed the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

We completed and submitted our periodic reports under the Convention on Migrant Workers, the Convention Against Torture and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

We are prepared for the Universal Periodic Review and the national human rights action plan.

We are also prepared for the periodic review under the Optional Protocol on Children in Armed Conflict, the Convention of the Rights of the Child, as well as the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. …