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Human Rights Require Stronger Institutions

PARIS – Sixty years ago this week, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the first international proclamation of the inherent dignity and equal rights of all people. To this day, the Universal Declaration remains the single most important reference point for discussion of ethical values across national, ideological, and cultural divides.

Yet the Declaration’s enlightened vision of individual freedom, social protection, economic opportunity and duty to community is still unfulfilled. Tragically, genocide is happening again, this time in Sudan. A heightened security agenda since the attacks on the United States in September 2001 has included attempts to legitimize the use of “extraordinary rendition” (the movement between countries of prisoners and suspects without due process of law) and torture.

For women around the world, domestic violence and discrimination in employment are a daily reality. Minorities suffer stigma, discrimination, and violence in developed and developing countries. The right to information is denied to millions through censorship and media intimidation.

Poverty is our greatest shame. At least one billion very poor people, 20% of humanity, are daily denied basic rights to adequate food and clean water. While gross inequalities between rich and poor persist, we cannot claim to be making adequate progress toward fulfilling the ambitions set down 60 years ago.