10 December 1996

Press Release


19961210 This is the text of the statement by Secretary-General Boutros Boutros- Ghali on Human Rights Day, as delivered:

I am delighted to join you on this important occasion.

On this Human Rights Day, the international community rededicates itself to the universal goal of defending fundamental freedoms and promoting basic human rights wherever they are threatened. We re-emphasize that human rights constitute one of the basic pillars of the Charter of the United Nations. They are at the core of the civilized order it enshrines. Such freedoms and rights are universal and must be the birthright of all mankind.

Peace, human rights, democracy and development are the daily work of the United Nations. All around the world, the United Nations is working hard to prevent and resolve conflict, and to offer countless millions new hope for a better and more peaceful future. Human rights are a crucial part of these efforts. We fully recognize the need for individual freedoms and individual rights to be upheld as a foundation for peace within and among nations.

But as the twentieth century draws to a close, human rights face increasing threats and new challenges. The spread of war and violence, hunger and poverty, and growing inequality all risk undermining hard-won rights and freedoms. Intolerance, racism, xenophobia, religious fanaticism and terrorism all give serious cause for concern. That is why it is now more urgent than ever for all the peoples of the world and all Member States to renew their commitment to the global task of protecting and promoting human rights.

The right to life, freedom from torture and ill treatment, equality before the law, and freedom of expression are all rights which require ever constant protection and vigilance.

* Reissued to include English translation of French portion of statement.

Equally, our commitment to lasting development requires that the international community uphold and promote fundamental economic and social rights such as the right to food, shelter, employment, education and health care.

Over the last 50 years, the United Nations has introduced and developed a comprehensive framework for the protection of human rights. We have established precise international human rights standards. We have created ways and means of improving respect for human rights within Member States. And, where necessary and possible, we have intervened to protect victims of human rights abuses and violations.

Countless groups and thousands of individuals have turned to the United Nations human rights bodies for support against discrimination, torture, executions, disappearances, and religious and racial intolerance. And every year, individual Member States receive vital technical and educational human rights assistance.

Today, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is working actively with Member States to encourage the establishment and strengthening of national institutions for the protection and promotion of human rights.

To this end, the Centre for Human Rights has established an important presence in a number of Member States. In addition, the Centre is actively promoting training initiatives for members of the military, police, prison officials, lawyers and judges in countries all around the world. A global programme of human rights education has been implemented to support the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education.

I should like, lastly, to add that human rights are not a concern of the United Nations alone, but also of all actors in international life. The public at large, non-governmental organizations, parliaments and the media are also fully involved in guaranteeing the observance of human rights. These new actors in the sphere of international relations have often shown their ability to alert the world to situations and to tragedies where human rights are being flouted. They are, thus, playing an essential mobilization role and demonstrating that the international community is watchful.

Indeed, if human rights are to become an integral part of the reality of peoples and nations, they require constant attention. Public scrutiny, determination on the part of each and every one of us, and an ongoing collective effort are the best ways of guaranteeing protection for the individual. It is through the combined efforts of States, international organizations, non-governmental organizations and individuals that the rule of law must be advanced and the conscience of the world must be promoted. These new international actors can, thus, make a contribution to helping States and

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governments become more aware of and be more attentive to the rights of the human person. They can also help to educate citizens more effectively on issues involving human rights and fundamental freedoms and inform the public at large on such matters more effectively.

Collectively taking on responsibility for safeguarding human rights is a fundamental contribution to the democratization of international life. As we are well aware, the democratization process is inseparable from the safeguarding of human rights. They both have a universal dimension. They are common aspirations shared by all peoples and by all nations. Now, more than ever, the ongoing globalization of the economy must be accompanied by the globalization and democratization of the observance of human rights. Today, on this anniversary, I once again call on the international community to join in this struggle on behalf of the human person. For this struggle on behalf of men, women and children and to safeguard their dignity is a struggle that by itself justifies our full commitment and all our determination.

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For information media. Not an official record.