Saturday, September 20, 2008

Reaffirming Human Rights for All the Universal Declaration at 60

The UN is marking 2008, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) with a number of conferences which will culminate in a special session to be held at the UN General Assembly in New York on Dec. 10th. The Most recent preparatory conference took place in Paris from Sept 3rd to 5th at the UNESCO headquarters where the Universal Declaration was signed in 1948. Among the many contributors to this conference was Karel Vasak who was an initial contributor to the actual drafting of the Universal Declaration and a former legal advisor to UNESCO in Paris.
In a thought provoking presentation Vasak talke about three generations of human rights pointed to the importance of the indivisibility of human rights and told the assembly that not all human rights are accepted by all countries. He instanced the Economic and Social rights which he said are still not accepted by some. He also expressed concern that there is no right to petition, which he said had been discarded and people have been punished for petitioning the UN and other international institutions. Vasak said he deplored the fact that the 60th anniversary of the UDHR will not end with a universal declaration of human duties
The existing declaration has, he told the meeting, very little to say about duties. There is in fact only one article of three sections dealing with duties and it is very light.
Vasak told the meeting that there should be seven categories of human duties and then went on to set out six which he categorised as duties to self, duties to others, duties to family, duties in respect of culture, nature and environment, duties to the national community and duties to the international community. He then posed the question to the assembly what should the seventh category of human duties be. Vasek wound up his presentation by asserting that the seventh category should consist of our duty to God.
A webcast of Vasek’s full presentation may be viewed HERE