Mon­day marks the 70th an­niver­sary of the sign­ing of the Univer­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Hu­man Rights.

El­e­ments of his­toric, ide­al­is­tic post-Sec­ond World War United Na­tions doc­u­ment ig­nored, re­jected for 70 years by many of the 48 sig­na­to­ries, in­clud­ing Canada

Winnipeg Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - BEN WALD­MAN

The doc­u­ment states 30 ba­sic rights and free­doms to which all hu­mans are en­ti­tled.

We talk to seven Win­nipeg­gers about the ones that mean the most to them /

SEVENTY years ago, with the hor­rors of the Sec­ond World War, the Holo­caust and the Holodomor on full dis­play in the rearview mir­ror, a con­sor­tium of law­mak­ers, gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives, aca­demics and ide­o­logues gath­ered to draft a doc­u­ment they hoped would pre­vent any sim­i­lar atroc­i­ties from hap­pen­ing again.

It was a bold vision, and the newly formed United Na­tions, which re­placed the in­ef­fec­tive League of Na­tions, had high hopes for the doc­u­ment. On Dec. 10, 1948, the Univer­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Hu­man Rights was pro­claimed by the UN’s Gen­eral Assem­bly. Within the dec­la­ra­tion, 30 spe­cific ar­ti­cles de­scrib­ing a va­ri­ety of rights and free­doms were writ­ten, es­tab­lish­ing a cen­tral­ized frame­work the UN had de­ter­mined was needed.

It was a land­mark ac­com­plish­ment, but even the coun­tries that voted in favour of the dec­la­ra­tion rou­tinely vi­o­lated it then, and con­tin­ued to vi­o­late it now.

In Canada, for ex­am­ple, although the right to a univer­sal fran­chise is en­shrined in the dec­la­ra­tion, it took years be­fore many groups were legally al­lowed to vote. The dec­la­ra­tion also pro­claims the univer­sal right of a stan­dard of liv­ing ad­e­quate for the health and well-be­ing of all peo­ple, in­clud­ing food; dozens of First Na­tions still lack run­ning wa­ter, and many have wa­ter that is un­safe to drink. It also stip­u­lates a guar­an­tee of equal work for equal pay, re­gard­less of gen­der, race or sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, yet cer­tain groups still earn con­sid­er­ably less than oth­ers.

Though seven decades have passed, there is still more to be done to pro­tect those rights. Sev­eral Win­nipeg­gers have a deep un­der­stand­ing of just how im­por­tant that no­tion is.


Seid Ahmed was tar­geted by Ethiopian au­thor­i­ties be­cause he was sim­ply a jour­nal­ist try­ing to tell the truth.

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