December 10 – Human Rights Day

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“Discrimination targets individuals and groups that are vulnerable to attack: the disabled, women and girls, the poor, migrants, minorities, and all those who are perceived as different.

… But these victims of discrimination are not alone. The United Nations is standing with them, committed to defending the rights of all, and particularly the most vulnerable. That is our identity and our mission.”

UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon

On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Following this historic act the Assembly called upon all Member countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and “to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories.”

All around the world, millions of people face a daily struggle against discrimination – both directly, through laws and policies, or indirectly, through societal attitudes and prejudice. When taken to the extreme, such discrimination has even resulted in policies of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

However in recent history there have been many successes – from the toppling of the apartheid regime in South Africa, to the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to the extension of voting rights to women in many countries – which should encourage us that inequality and discrimination can be fought against and eradicated.

Anyone can lead the charge for human rights. Tommy Douglas, a Brandon University alumni, created the Saskatchewan Bill of Rights while Premier of the province. Introduced 18 months before the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it was the first general law in Canada prohibiting discrimination and the building block for the Canadian Bill of Rights.

Everyone of us can make a difference. On Human Rights Day 2009, Thursday December 10, resolve to embrace diversity and end discrimination.


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