10 December 2006
Human Rights Day is the occasion to consider the situation of human rights throughout the world, to assess achievements and defeats, and to reflect on possible solutions to existing challenges.Indisputable progress has been achieved over the past few decades in implementing human rights standards through the combined efforts of States, international organizations, NGOs and the less visible but no less important work of confident and patient citizens everywhere. However, this progress has not been shared equally by all countries and all groups of people.
Today, some regions of the world still face gross violations of human rights, resulting in enormous human suffering – including mass killing and the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands from their homes.
Freedom of opinion and expression is often jeopardized by the violence of those who wish to impose their views and punish men and women who have the courage to hold independent judgement, among them media professionals who every week pay the price of their courage with their lives.
Extreme poverty is one of the main threats to human dignity and human rights. Despite substantial improvements in some countries, more than a billion persons are not able to satisfy their basic needs. They are deprived of adequate nutrition, decent housing and safe water. Many thousands of children and adults die every day from treatable diseases because they lack access to or cannot afford the necessary medicines and care.
We all know that education is a precondition for sustainable human development and the key to a better future for all. Yet for many people access to education remains a distant hope. Millions of children, especially girls, are deprived of even basic schooling and thus of the benefits and opportunities that education can bring.
Hand in hand with other members of the United Nations family, UNESCO is striving to eradicate poverty, to ensure basic well-being, to promote gender equality and to eliminate discrimination. UNESCO defends the rights of journalists to carry on their work and promote the rights of peoples to have their own cultures – the right to diversity. We are also the lead coordinator of the international drive to achieve Education for All, which is predicated on the universal right to education.
This year the United Nations Human Rights Council was established to replace the Commission on Human Rights, and it is hoped that the Council will progress beyond the work of the previous body. The Council has preserved all the main responsibilities of the Commission, but has also assumed new important functions, among them the universal periodic review of the compliance of all United Nations Member States with their obligations under international human rights law.
It is evident that Human Rights Day is an occasion to draw together our energies with a view to creating a better world for all. On this day, UNESCO reiterates its commitment to defend and promote human rights, a commitment that lies at the heart of the Organization’s mandate and at the core of its work in all Member States.