René Cassin statement on Human Rights Day 2020
Today, Human Rights Day, marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On this day in 1948, the world lit what Nelson Mandela would later call “a beacon of hope”, after humanity’s darkest hour. As the charity that takes its name from Monsieur René Cassin, the Declaration’s co-author, today is a particularly proud and poignant day.
That the Declaration was a response to the atrocities of the then recent war is clear in its preamble: “… disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind”. Equally clear, the role of human rights in building a better world: “ … recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.
Today, for many of ‘the human family’, Mandela’s beacon burns all too dimly. The global pandemic has added to a rising tide of inequality, injustice, and poverty. Populist nationalism is fuelling intolerance and hatred. Hopes and dreams are in ruins.
But the dark clouds of crisis offer us silver linings of opportunity – to harness some of the amazing community spirit it has unleashed to rebuild a better world. Not for nothing is the UN’s theme for today ‘Recover Better’.
And we could do no better than to revisit this day in 1948 and find inspiration in the words of that historic Declaration. It goes on to say, in Article 25, that “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being … including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood”.
Giving renewed attention to our neighbours’ needs to be fed, clothed, housed, healthy and secure – essential rights without which there can be no ‘inherent dignity’ – would be a fitting testament to that landmark day 72 years ago.
Watch our film René Cassin and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights