In 2018, we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948, a date we now recognise as Human Rights Day, the Declaration was designed to prevent repetition of the horrific human rights violations committed during World War II.
The Declaration established a common standard of rights for all peoples, in all nations, and for the first time proclaimed that everyone is born free and equal in rights and dignity. It was a watershed moment in the history of human rights and remains as relevant today as it was in 1948. The Declaration is at the core of the modern human rights system.
For Australia, the achievement was even more momentous. TheDeclaration was drafted by a diverse group of people, including formerAustralian soldier and diplomat William Hodgson, and was adopted bythe UN General Assembly under the presidency of Former AustralianForeign Minister Dr Herbert Vere ‘Doc’ Evatt.
This was an early assertion of Australia’s voice on the international stage, and one of the first times we spoke globally on the importance of the rules based international order. Almost 70 years later Australia reaffirmed its commitment to a strong multilateral human rights system and to advancing human rights globally in the Foreign Policy White Paper[link: https://www.fpwhitepaper.gov.au/]. This commitment also underlies our membership of the UN Human Rights Council[link: https://dfat.gov.au/hrc].
Australia’s commitment to the aims and purposes of the Declaration reflects our national values, and remains an underlying principle of Australia’s engagement with the international community. Human rights, security, peace and prosperity go hand in hand. Respecting fundamental human rights and freedoms, and building them into the fabric of a society, makes us safer and more secure.