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Human Rights Day 2021

Today is the 10th December 2021 and it is Human Rights Day.

What are human rights?

Human rights are the fundamental rights and freedoms that belong to every single one of us, anywhere in the world. Human rights apply no matter where you are from, what you believe in, or how you choose to live your life. Human rights can never be taken away, but they can sometimes be restricted – for example if a person breaks the law, or in the interests of national security. These rights and freedoms are based on values like dignity, fairness, equality, respect and independence. But human rights are not just abstract concepts – they are defined and protected by law.

How did they come about?

After the horrors of the Second World War, a document was written specifically to outline and protect every single human being’s basic rights. With the end of that war, and the creation of the United Nations (UN), the international community vowed to never again allow atrocities like those of that conflict to happen again. World leaders decided to complement the UN Charter with a road map to guarantee the rights of every individual everywhere. On 10 December 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) to do exactly that.

When the General Assembly adopted the Declaration, it was proclaimed as a "common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations", towards which individuals and societies should "strive by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance".

There are 30 rights and freedoms set out by the UN in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They include the right to asylum, the right to freedom from torture, the right to free speech and the right to education. No one can take these rights and freedoms away from us. They belong to everybody. It guarantees the rights of every individual everywhere, without distinction based on nationality, place of residence, gender, national or ethnic origin, religion, language, or any other status.

Although the UDHR is not a binding document, the general consent of all UN Member States on the basic Human Rights laid down in the Declaration makes it even stronger and emphasizes the relevance of Human Rights in our daily lives.

What are the basics of human rights?

Human rights have some key qualities, agreed by the international community. They must be recognised as:

  • Universal: they belong to every single person

  • Inalienable: they cannot be taken away from us

  • Indivisible and interdependent: governments should not be able to pick and choose which rights are respected.

What is Human Rights Day?

In December 1950, the UN General Assembly invited all UN Member States and any other interested organizations to commemorate the 10 December 1948 proclamation of the UDHR with an annual celebration, called Human Rights Day, to be held on the anniversary of that landmark date. Human Rights Day is observed by the international community every year on 10 December. It commemorates the day the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The High Commissioner for Human Rights, as the main United Nations rights official, and the Office of the High Commissioner play a major role in coordinating efforts for the yearly observation of Human Rights Day.

What is the theme for 2021?

2021 Theme: EQUALITY - Reducing inequalities, advancing human rights.

Each year a theme is chosen to draw attention to a particular facet of the effort to uphold human rights. Themes have included ending discrimination, fighting poverty, and protecting victims of human rights violations. Additionally, since 1968, which the UN designated as the International Year for Human Rights, the organisation has periodically awarded a United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights on Human Rights Day.

The 2021 theme relates to 'Equality' and Article 1 of the UDHR – “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” The principles of equality and non-discrimination are at the heart of human rights. Equality is aligned with the 2030 Agenda and with the UN approach set out in the document Shared Framework on Leaving No One Behind: Equality and Non-Discrimination at the Heart of Sustainable Development. This includes addressing and finding solutions for deep-rooted forms of discrimination that have affected the most vulnerable people in societies, including women and girls, indigenous peoples, people of African descent, migrants and people with disabilities, among others.

How is it celebrated?

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights plays a prominent role in coordinating worldwide efforts to celebrate the day, which routinely features cultural events and performances, public meetings and seminars, and other educational activities in promotion of human rights. Human Rights Day has also served as the occasion for protests and other demonstrations in support of human rights, especially in countries that have frequently been beset by allegations of rights violations. A good example of the symbolic value of Human Rights Day is when former South African President, the late Nelson Mandela, signed his country’s first permanent post-apartheid constitution on Dec. 10, 1996.

For more information on Human Rights Day and materials on how you can participate in celebrating it, visit the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner website at and the United Nations website on


Irene Okoro

EWAD Assistant social and welfare officer

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