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Reflecting on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70

Holy See event: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Its Foundations, Achievements and Violations

Leading up to the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations issued a significant statement concerning the nature of the Human Rights discussion in the modern context, reminding the global community what the UDHR is and what it is not. They did this at their event on Dec 4th, 2018.

Here are some memorable quotes from the Holy See opening statement:

 “Article 3 affirms that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.  And yet in many places those rights are not only not respected, but their violations are even celebrated, even in the UN institutions...” 

 “After the horrors of the first half of last century, it was obvious that human progress could not be measured only by scientific and technological advances, since even those could become weapons against the innocent. Rather human progress has to be the integral development of persons and peoples, especially their ethical development.”

There is a modern temptation to accentuate the word “rights”, while neglecting the even more important word “human.”

“But human rights are premised on the existence of a nature objectively shared by all members of the humane race, by the very fact of their humanity. From that nature flows human dignity, which refers to the intrinsic worth of a person, no matter one’s circumstances, no matter how young or old, rich or poor, strong or vulnerable, healthy or sick, wanted or undesired, economically productive or incapacitated, politically influential or insignificant.”

“Some view the declaration as a list of separate guarantees that one can choose to defend or dismiss. This undermines every right that is in the declaration because once some rights become optional, every right does.”

“There is a risk that in the very name of human rights, we will see the rise of modern forms of ideological colonization by the stronger and the wealthier, to the detriment of the poorer and the most vulnerable, disregarding the due respect for the fundamental rights proclaimed by the Universal Declaration of human rights.” – Quoting Pope Francis’ statements in January, speaking in the Vatican to the diplomats accredited to the Holy See

“The human rights, in general, and the universal declaration, in particular, were not meant to be used as weapons to advance political, economic, military or cultural agendas contrary to the fundamental human rights. Human rights cannot be treated as open terms whose meanings different actors can change to suit their purposes. Otherwise, it will gradually eviscerate universal respect for the declaration of human rights, leave the world worse off and leave people far more vulnerable.

Watch the Holy See event here which was co-sponsored by ADF International and featured an esteemed panel of experts including Rev. Msgr. Tomasz Grysa, First Counsellor to the Holy See; H. E Prof. Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor at Harvard Law School and former Ambassador of the USA to the Holy See; Prof. Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program at Princeton University; Prof. Paolo Carozza, Professor of Law, Concurrent Professor Political Science and Director, Kellogg Institute for International Studies at Notre Dame University; and Mr. Michael P. Farris, President and CEO, and General Counsel of ADF International.

See the event concept note here: