The Universal Declaration of Human Rights After 70 Years – Is the Founding Vision Being Lost?

The world is back on a path to self-destruction as the global community is increasingly forgetting the lessons of the past according to the United Nations’ special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer.

His comments, made as the UN marks the 70th anniversary of the universal declaration of human rights (UDHR), alleged that the global community had become “complacent” in the face of injustice because the world no longer understood why human rights should be protected or what the world would look like without them.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that 70 years after world war two, when the last witnesses of past atrocities are dying away, we start to see human rights being questioned on a broad scale,” he said.

“The generation that had the answer is almost gone. They left behind the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for us, but it is as if its message is no longer understood, and it looks like we will have to learn the same lesson the hard way again.”

Melzer pointed to the grave human rights violations occurring in key migration routes as proof that the global community now considers human rights a “luxury” instead of a right, as numerous countries backed out of a UN compact in Marrakech seeking to make migration a universal right.

looking back he pointed to the “global war on terror” which saw the use of torture increasingly tolerated in public opinion as well as in mainstream entertainment, as a significant step in the dismantling of human rights.

The global erosion of human rights is just one crisis among many, said Melzer, from migration and the environment to financial instability, energy, poverty and cyber security. Rather than provide solutions to these problems, however, world leaders are instead “promoting regressive policies focused on national interests and decrying human rights as a threat to national sovereignty and security”.

Melzer added: “We must understand that, in a world full of globalised challenges, human rights are the very basis for our safety, stability and prosperity, and that any significant erosion of these rights will cause the collapse of our modern civilisation.

Concerns about recent interpretations of the ‘right to life’ that resulted in laws permitting euthanasia, abortion and assisted suicide for people with disabilities and a growing pressure on medical conscientious objection which leads to a severe limitation of the rights of conscience, religion and belief, were also expressed at a special event in Geneva marking the 70th anniversary of the UDHR. The event was organised by the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the UN in partnership with a range of international organisations.

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