In 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was ratified, setting out fundamental human rights to be universally protected. Drafted by representatives from all parts of the World, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in France on 10 December 1948.
Seventy-two years later, the UDHR holds the Guinness World Record as the most translated text in the world. Yet, far too many people remain unaware of their basic human rights. December 10th is the day designated as International Human Rights Day to raise awareness of the fundamental rights that belong to every human as a birth right.
This year’s Human Rights Day comes as the world is addressing the tragedies caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 has shaken our world and exposed our weaknesses, particularly the gaps in human rights. The Human Rights Day 2020 is a call to action, a call for all of us to build a new world, post COVID-19, that respects and protects our fundamental human rights.
It is therefore appropriate that the theme for Human Rights Day 2020 is Recover Better-Stand Up for Human Rights. It asks us to build back better by ensuring that human rights are central to recovery efforts. What does this mean in practice? It means, ending discrimination; reducing inequalities; encouraging participation of all people and communities in governance and society; and intensifying our commitment to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The months of the COVID-19 pandemic have exposed the human rights gaps in our economic and social systems in unprecedented ways: children not accessing their right to education; communities with inadequate access to comprehensive healthcare; stigma and neglect affecting the elderly; persons living with disabilities subject to discrimination and exclusion; increased violence against women, girls and children; and a massive loss of jobs and economic opportunities. Malawi registered a shocking spike in teen pregnancies and early marriages as a result of an elongated school closure.
Malawi in 2020 presented the Universal Periodic Review to the Human Rights Council and became a member of this organ, which are two remarkable achievements. This has already set the path for Malawi institutions and civil society to recover better with human rights central to the acceleration of the SDGs, which can hopefully make its way to the current visioning exercise for 2063.
Only actions that close equality gaps in our societies and advance human rights can ensure a full recovery to build back a society that is more resilient, more robust, just, and sustainable.
Together, we need to create robust health and social protection mechanisms; address environmental devastation; strengthen governance institutions; ensure the application of inclusive policies, fight corruption, and end all forms of discrimination so that these mechanisms are accessible to all.
Human rights are the answer to this human crisis because they yield fair and resilient societies. The EU and the UN are partners globally and stand for human rights. we are ready to continue supporting Malawi in this endeavor.
Written by: United Nations Resident Coordinator Maria Jose Torres and Charge d’Affaires of the Delegation of the European Union to Malawi, Aurelie Valtat