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Celebrating our human rights

December 8, 2011

From the Davis Enterprise

By Verena Borton

On Saturday, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a remarkable document that changed our world for the better, turns 63.

It was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on Dec. 10, 1948, and owes much of its content to the brilliant work of Eleanor Roosevelt, head of the U.N. team that drafted the declaration.

In this first global effort to protect the rights of everyone, governments for the first time agreed that people everywhere would thereafter be entitled to rights, be entitled to know what they are, and be entitled to claim them.

Almost every nation has adopted the declaration. While the act of adopting is not legally binding, it represents a moral obligation to make the goals a reality, acknowledging that the rights belong to everyone. Much has been accomplished, but much remains to be done, as has been clearly demonstrated this past year.

At 3 p.m. Sunday, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will be presented in 30 languages (followed by English translations), illustrating both the diversity of our community and the universality of the declaration, at International House, 10 College Park.

The Davis chapter of the United Nations Association observes this anniversary each year and invites the public to join in the event to reflect on such basic truths as “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” (Article 5)

Copies of the declaration will be available as a gift from the United Nations Association for all who attend, as a permanent reminder of this powerful guide to human rights everywhere.

Why read the declaration in the relatively intimate setting of the Community Room at International House, rather than at a bigger venue? To quote Eleanor Roosevelt: “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. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works.

“Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”

These words, spoken so many decades ago, take on a new urgency here and now.

— Verena Borton, a longtime Davis resident, is president of the United Nations-USA Davis chapter.


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