Every year, the international community observes Human Rights Day on 10 December. The day is devoted to brining to the attention of the peoples of the world the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard for all peoples and all nations to aim for.
This year, the international community also marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action which was adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993. That event is widely seen as marking the beginning of a renewed effort to protect and promote human rights. In line with this, this year’s theme was set as “20 Years Working for Your Rights.”
In Iran, one of the events took place at the House of Humanities Intellectuals (HIHT). The seminar was organized jointly by the Islamic Human Rights Commission and HIHT. Among the attendees were members of HIHT, academia, the media and UN officials.
Mr. Gary Lewis, UN Resident Coordinator delivered the message of UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon on the occasion of Human Rights Day. The message emphasized: “Then, as now, the key to success is the political will of Member States. It is States, in the first instance, that are obliged to protect human rights and prevent violations at a national level, and to stand up when other States fail to live up to their commitments.”
Mr. Lewis then took the opportunity to share with the audience his personal reflections on the day and the immense contribution to symbolizing these rights by the living legend of Nelson Mandela. With the recent passing of Mr. Nelson Mandela – a pioneer of human rights – he said: “I have worked for the UN for 26 years, and some of those years I was privileged to spend in South Africa. I have had the privilege of being in the presence of Mr. Mandela.”
Mr. Lewis added: “What inspired me most was not so much the man himself, but the effect he had on everyone else in the room. We – those present in the room – all seemed to be thinking: If, after all that has happened to him, he can show such compassion, such inclusiveness, such grace, if only we could be more like him.” Truly the world has lost an icon, he said.
Dr. Kazem Sajadpour, retired Iranian Diplomat and Professor of International Relations said that human rights situation has improved at national and international level since the establishment of the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). “During the past 20 years many new conventions were ratified by the UN member states which have safeguarded the rights of individuals, for example the rights of disabled people or migrant workers, Mr. Sajjadpour said.