Universal Human Rights Month

By Sharon Schweitzer

December 10th, 2023 marks the 75th anniversary of one of the world’s most groundbreaking global pledges: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). In 1948 after the turmoil of World War II, the Commission of Human Rights, chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, wrote a document called the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This document was adopted by the United Nations and defines human rights on a universal level. It states “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. It enshrines the inalienable rights that everyone is entitled to as a human being – regardless of race, color, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

The only other female delegate to the Commission on Human Rights in 1947 to 1948 was Hansa Mehta of India. She stalwartly fought for the rights of women in India and elsewhere. Mehta is commonly credited with altering the phrase “All men are born free and equal” to “All human beings are born free and equal” in Article 1 of the UDHR.

Available in more than 500 languages, it is the most translated document in the world.

The UDHR has since served as the foundation for an expanding system of human rights protection that today focuses also on vulnerable groups such as persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and migrants.

Many countries have taken text from the UDHR and written it into their constitutions. Over eighty international declarations and treaties originated from the UDHR. Among them are the 1984 Convention against Torture and the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child. Each United Nations member country has ratified one if not more than nine key human rights treaties.

However, the promise of the UDHR, of dignity and equality in rights, has been under a sustained assault in recent years. As the world faces challenges new and ongoing – pandemics, conflicts, exploding inequalities, morally bankrupt global financial system, racism, climate change – the values, and rights enshrined in the UDHR provide guideposts for our collective actions that do not leave anyone behind.

The year-long Human Rights 75 initiative seeks to shift the needle of understanding and action towards greater knowledge of the universality of the UDHR and the activism associated with it.


Photo by un.org

Sharon Schweitzer JD, is a diversity and inclusion consultant, cross-cultural trainer, etiquette expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre, she is an attorney and mediator. Sharon served as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business,  Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, won a coveted Kirkus Star, and was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books. She’s a winner of numerous awards, including the British Airways International Trade Award at the Greater Austin Business Awards.

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