The Declaration of Human Rights Lives on in the Fight against Discrimination

Article excerpt

BYLINE: Navi Pillay

Today, Human Rights Day, we celebrate the brave advocates, some famous, many unknown, who speak out against discrimination, exclusion and inequality.

These human rights defenders breathe life into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which, 62 years ago, on this day, reminded the international community of the "inherent dignity" and the "equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family". It set the foundation for a world free from fear, want and intolerance, where the powerful are accountable and the vulnerable are protected.

Respect for human rights of all is achievable if we act in solidarity with human rights advocates and make the fight against discrimination our own. We must do so because discrimination is a die-hard scourge. Some of its most entrenched aspects are of particular concern, due to their prevalence globally.

Discrimination in law and practice makes women, half of the world's population, second-class citizens and targets of violence.

For far too long, indigenous peoples have been considered unwanted guests in their own ancestral lands.

Racism is not yet defeated, as minorities and other vulnerable individuals continue to live in fear of racially motivated attacks. We should all embrace the cause of people with disabilities who are observed with morbid curiosity when they cross our path, but who, all too often, become invisible when they claim their rights.

And we should denounce the ill treatment of irregular migrant workers who, in many cases, are regarded as pariahs in the foreign countries that need their labour.

People all over the world endure scorn, human rights abuses and violence because of their sexual orientation.

The elderly are increasingly regarded as "disposable" and as "burdens" by their families and communities, rather than sources of experience and wisdom.

Human rights defenders insist that these conditions be addressed with the proper mix of measures and interventions which, in law and in practice, empower the victims and foster public education. …