United Nations reflects on human rights role
December 10, 1997
Web posted at: 1:53 p.m. EST (1853 GMT)
From Correspondent David Clinch
(CNN) -- The universal right to food, education and basic
civic and political freedoms were lofty goals set by the
United Nations following World War II.
With much of Europe still in ruins and the atrocities of the
Holocaust fresh in people's minds, the newly formed
organization also made a related commitment on December 10,
1948, by developing the Universal Declaration of Human
Wednesday was the first day of ceremonies that will continue
throughout the year and end with a special celebration next
December to mark the declaration's 50th anniversary.
The United Nations is taking stock of its efforts.
"There are approximately a billion (people) of our world who
live in the kind of absolute poverty that denies them their
economic and social rights and their right to development,"
said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson.
"So it is not a celebration. It is a concerted year in which
we rededicate ourselves to this vision, and we do it in a
context of review of the commitments entered into."
Robinson and her staff are the first to admit that genocide
and other human rights violations remain a major concern in
all parts of the world, and surface as racial hatred, child
abuse and political repression.
President Clinton is a vocal human rights supporter, and
first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was to be a keynote speaker
at Wednesday's ceremonies.
For the president, human rights and democracy are
"Supporting the spread of democracy, with respect for human
rights, advances the values that make life worth living," he
The United Nations is careful not to tie the human rights
issue to any single political system, but instead appeals to
the more fundamental human awareness of what is right.
"Human rights are the foundation of human existence and
co-existence. Human rights are universal, indivisible and
interdependent," said U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
"Human rights are what makes us human. They are principles by
which we create the sacred home for human dignity."