Universal Human Rights month promotes theme of ‘Recover Better’


Maddie Barbar, Blueprint Editor

With the chaotic festivities of winter holidays during the month of December, Universal Human Rights month is consistently overlooked. The three major religious holidays of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa tend to overshadow Universal Human Rights month. Universal Human Rights month is celebrated every December and is primarily commemorated on December 10th. December 10th, 1948 is t he day the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). According to the United Nations, the UDHR “proclaims the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being regardless of race, color, religion, sex, language, political affiliations or other opinions, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

The UDHR was established after World War II because the U.N. wanted to prevent the atrocities that had occurred during the war from ever happening again. They created the document as a way to define what human rights would be protected universally. The UDHR holds the Guiness Book of World Records for the most translated document in the world. It is available in over 500 languages, and was the first document to establish international human rights.

As Catholics, we hold an immense amount of responsibility to maintain human rights. The key themes of our Catholic social teaching are: life and dignity of the human person, call to family, community, participation, rights and responsibilities, preferential option for the poor, the rights of workers, solidarity, and care for God’s creations. These themes are upheld through Catholic community service groups. The official Catholic Community Services states that, “We believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.” Our teachings take the articles from the UDHR to another level. While the UDHR outlines the rights every human being deserves, the church goes on to explain why these rights are deserved. As Catholics, we believe that all humans are made in the image and likeness of God, and so everyone deserves to be treated fairly and equally.

The US played a very important role in the creation of the UDHR. America’s First Lady from 1933-1945, Eleanor Roosevelt, was appointed as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly in 1946. Roosevelt used her public platform as First Lady of the United States to advocate for human rights. She was appointed to this council and popularly known as the “First Lady of the World.” She served as the first Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights and played an instrumental role in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On March 27, 1956, Roosevelt gave a speech at the tenth anniversary of the UDHR. During her speech, she stated one of her most memorable quotes, “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world.”

The 2020 Human Rights Day theme is Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights. This theme encompasses the global COVID-19 pandemic and its detrimental effect on Human Rights all over the world. Universal Human Rights month is an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of human rights all over the world, and advocate for change. Some long term goals that the United Nations has outlined for the 2020 day of human rights is to end discrimination of any kind, address inequalities, encourage participation and solidarity, and promote sustainable development.

So, what can people do? Well, like Roosevelt said, human rights begin right here. Finding injustices in everyday life, and advocating for change is fighting for human rights. As big a task as it may seem, it is a necessary one. People should educate themselves on cultures they are not familiar with, research human rights issues happening around the world, and do their part to bring justice to those who need it. World leaders create the documents that promote human rights, but the real change happens in the communities. Human Rights Month is about finding common ground. The first article of the UDHR proclaims that, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” During such a divided period in history, keep in mind that similarities outnumber differences.