Dec. 10, 2008 is the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
by the UN General Assembly, which is celebrated as Human Rights Day
. The UDHR is not a treaty or international agreement, but the first global statement proclaiming the importance of basic human rights to the world community. It was borne by the desire of the international community to never again suffer the atrocities of World War II. It declares, in part, 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.
The UDHR serves as a summation of important traditional civil and political rights, including freedom from slavery, equal treatment before the law, protection against arbitrary arrest, the right to a fair trial, freedom of assembly, speech, religion, and thought, the right to own property, and the right to education.
Eleanor Roosevelt chaired the UDHR drafting committee, which consisted of 18 individuals from as many countries. The group argued over every word and every comma in every language, but ultimately overcame cultural differences and, guided by the firm hand of Mrs. Roosevelt, completed the UDHR in two years. A number of events are scheduled in celebration of this important achievement at the UN and around the world.