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The Right to Equality, Then and Now

LONDON – Following weeks of financial and economic turmoil, public debate has finally turned to the horrific potential human ramifications of the collapse of the global financial system. Comparisons and contrasts with the Great Depression of the 1930’s have inevitably become a central part of that discourse – and rightly so. There is much that the world can and must learn now from the lowest point of the twentieth century.

Above all, we have got to heed the proven need for applying social – as well as economic – interventions in a time of economic crisis. Recession and depression can lead to exclusion and, at worst, persecution of societies’ most vulnerable groups. That is why the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights was adopted in 1948, and why we need, more urgently than ever, to establish universal equality for all human beings.

Nations must act now to ensure that everyone – regardless of wealth, ethnicity, sex, or religion – has the same rights, and that these rights are enshrined in laws at the time they are enacted.

This October, 128 leading experts in the fields of human rights and equality from 44 countries launched a landmark attempt to build on the epochal 1948 UN declaration to establish universal human equality. We did so by launching a “Declaration on Principles of Equality” – a declaration that builds on its historical precursor to establish, for the first time ever, general legal principles that define equality as a basic human right.