Dec 10, 2008

World - A declaration that is more relevent than ever

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its impact on Europe and the world.

Authored by the Head of the
Delegation of the European
Commission to India and
theAmbassadors of the 27 member-
states of the European Union to India

Today the world celebrates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaimed and adopted by the U.N. General Assembly 60 years ago.

The long tradition of human rights is linked to historic world events such as the French Revolution of 1789. It has been one of the main political fights of the 19th and 20th centuries, including in India where freedom fighters led the struggle for independence in the name of human rights.

The memories of the horrors of the Second World War gave an impetus to the human rights movement. In 1948, this resulted in the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The diversity of the origins of its authors reflected the universality of the human rights and the fundamental freedoms set forth in the Declaration, regardless of race, gender, religion or nationality.

Since its adoption, the Declaration has been, and continues to be, a source of inspiration for national and international efforts to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

For Europeans, the promotion of essential values such as fundamental freedoms has been at the core of the European Union’s peaceful building process. This remains true to this day. Enshrined in the Treaty of Rome — the EU’s founding treaty — they are further reinforced by the 2000 Charter of Fundamental Rights. Respect for human rights is a prerequisite for countries seeking to join the Union, and human rights play an incremental role in EU global policy.

Today, the Universal Declaration, translated into nearly 350 national and local languages, is the best-known and most cited human rights document in the world. Because it is a cornerstone of international human rights instruments, the Universal Declaration serves as a model for numerous international treaties and declarations and is incorporated in the constitution and legislation of many countries. In line with the spirit of the Declaration, the EU has developed a wide range of instruments for the promotion and protection of human rights.

The European Union, through the European Commission and the 27 member-states, takes pride in being a frontrunner in support of human rights.

Considering that too many challenges like conflicts, poverty, political repression and discrimination continue to undermine the respect for basic human rights around the world, the EU is mobilising a wide spectrum of actions to improve respect for human rights both within and outside Europe.

In this regard, the EU has devised a number of policies, programmes and projects. One example to underline the level of these efforts: the European Union spends up to €140 million a year to fund a broad gamut of civil society projects across the world under the label of the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights.

The EU also defends human rights at the international level through political dialogue: specific provisions, for instance, are set in the agreements that tie the EU with partner-countries.

Today it is more important than ever before to realise that promoting and respecting human rights is linked to the goal of guaranteeing human security. Human security, democracy and prosperity can only be achieved in societies where fundamental freedoms are respected. As former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, “Humanity will not enjoy security without development; it will not enjoy development without security; and it will not enjoy either without respect for human rights.”

A few days after the horrendous attacks on Mumbai, the EU and India stand together against the scourge of terrorism. Europeans condemn this terrifying attack, and support India in its quest for justice. The fight for security must go hand in hand with policies aimed at reinforcing democratisation, social and economic development, empowering people and strengthening international dialogue. And when civilisation and human dignity are at stake, we must share the burden of the necessary fight against terror and international criminality.

More than ever before, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights must guide choices because it preserves the values that are at the very heart of the nations. Europe and India have chosen freedom, democracy and peace. The best choices towards the common objective of building a more humanised world have been made.

Today, let the EU reaffirm the universality of the common values as stated 60 years ago when the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights was adopted.

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