2023 marks the 75th anniversary of one of the most revolutionary global commitments in history: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The important document proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations in Paris on 10 December 1948 enshrines the inalienable rights that every person has as a human being, regardless of race, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property or other status.
The Declaration, with its wide range of political, civil, social, cultural and economic rights, is not a binding document, although it has stimulated the creation of more than 60 instruments on the subject, which together constitute international human rights law on which there is consensus among UN member states.
Remembering the Declaration takes on special significance this year, as the world watches with horror Israel's genocide against the Palestinian population in Gaza.
Every year, the UN commemorates the date with multiple activities and calls on the international community to continue making efforts to expand the guarantee of human rights in the most vulnerable social groups, such as people with disabilities, indigenous peoples and migrants.
However, the Declaration's promise of dignity and equal rights for all people has been under constant attack in recent years, the multilateral organization warns.
"When the world faces new and continuing challenges – such as pandemics, conflict, growing inequalities, the moral bankruptcy of the global financial system, racism and climate change – the values and rights enshrined in the Declaration serve as a guide for our collective actions to leave no one behind" (UN, 2023).
Volker Türk, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Photo: UN
In 2023, the theme of the campaign organized by the UN is "Dignity, freedom and justice for all" and aims to reorient international efforts towards greater awareness of the universality of the Declaration and the activism associated with it.
In this regard, Volker Türk, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, recently said:
"Human rights must be placed at the heart of governance, and not just used as part of beautiful speeches delivered by high-level officials.
"Human rights must be part of policies and laws, as well as guiding the way these laws and policies are put into practice. They must be the common thread that binds us all together, affecting all aspects of governance, the economy and society.
"The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was designed with lessons learned from two world wars, the Holocaust, atomic destruction, profound economic ruin, as well as generations of colonial exploitation, oppression, injustice and bloodshed. It was conceived as a roadmap to make a more stable and just world a reality."
The High Commissioner also stressed that "human rights are inherent in all human beings" and stressed that "leaders who ignore this truth endanger the people they are supposed to serve."
Volker Türk argued his claim by referring to the situation in Gaza, where "the Palestinian population lives under intense absolute terror" after more than two months of intense bombardment by Israel.
"(...) civilians continue to suffer relentless bombardment in Gaza by Israel, amounting to collective punishment, leading to death, blockades, destruction and large-scale deprivation of the most basic human needs, such as food, water, vital medical supplies and other essentials," he said.
"Military operations by Israeli forces, including shelling, continue to take place in northern, central and southern Gaza, affecting people who have already been displaced numerous times, and forced to flee in search of safety. But there is no safe place to go," the Commissioner illustrated in his conference.
"The catastrophic situation that we see unfolding in the Gaza Strip was foreseeable and avoidable in its entirety. My humanitarian colleagues have described the situation as apocalyptic. The international community must insist with one voice to call for an immediate ceasefire on humanitarian and human rights grounds," he added.
Volker Türk also mentioned other latent international conflicts in which people suffer violations of their most basic rights.
He also called for combating harmful discourse that discriminates and incites violence through modern information and communication technologies and even artificial intelligence.
"Over the past two months, hate speech online and offline, particularly anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim bigotry, has increased markedly. Houses and religious buildings have been de-graffitied around the world to frighten and provoke hatred. Political leaders have also used incendiary, toxic, and hate-filled rhetoric. These acts must be strongly condemned. International human rights law is absolutely clear on this," he said.
He insisted on redoubling action to combat the climate crisis and guarantee the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
"The fulfilment of the right to life and a healthy environment requires the gradual and equitable phase-out of all fossil fuels. Human rights law requires those responsible for climate damage, including states and corporations, to be held accountable to remedy it. It is time to ensure that the destruction of the environment carries criminal penalties as a basic deterrent.
"The future of our planet and future generations is at stake and it is vital that the voices of civil society representatives are heard loud and clear when crafting viable solutions," he concluded.
Video, 75 years since the Declaration
Message from the UN Secretary-General
Cuba is firm in its commitments to human rights
Cuba was elected in 2023, for the sixth time, to the Human Rights Council, as a sign of the prestige achieved by the country in the work of this body.
The Foreign Ministry reports that Cuba was the country in the region with the highest number of positive ballots received through the secret, direct and individual vote of 146 member states of the United Nations General Assembly. This ratifies the international community's recognition of the country's significant progress in the enjoyment of all human rights for all.
As a founding member of the Human Rights Council, Cuba has a long history of international cooperation in this area, based on respectful, frank and open dialogue. The result of the vote in Geneva also recognizes the Caribbean nation's firm commitment to upholding multilateralism and the United Nations Charter.
The countries that voted for Cuba also recognize the contribution that a developing nation such as our country, which has historically been a defender of dialogue and cooperation for the promotion and protection of all human rights in accordance with the principles of objectivity, can make as a member of the Human Rights Council. impartiality and non-selectivity. This commitment is evidenced by the broad, deep and comprehensive process of legislative reforms carried out in the country, which has included the strengthening of the legal and institutional framework for the promotion and protection of human rights.
In the midst of the complex national economic situation, which is directly affected by the unprecedented intensification of the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States, the election of Cuba as a member of this important body "is also a recognition of the courage, self-determination and creative resistance of the Cuban people in the face of the obstacles imposed by this criminal policy." underlines the Foreign Ministry.
The U.S. blockade of Cuba is the most flagrant, massive and systematic violation of the human rights of an entire people.
In presenting Cuba's report to the fourth cycle of the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla confirmed that the country will continue to promote the construction of an increasingly free, democratic, just, solidary, participatory and socialist society, for which it will continue to improve the institutional and legal framework for the protection of the human rights of all Cubans.
"Despite Cuba's progress since the previous Universal Periodic Review (2018), we have dissatisfactions and we strive to improve, promote 'full dignity' and 'all justice' and face the current challenges," he said.
Rodríguez Parrilla denounced the blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba and condemned the intensification of Washington's aggressiveness and its impact on all areas of society.
"Since the previous Review, the blockade has been significantly tightened with the application of more than 240 additional unilateral coercive measures and the fraudulent inclusion of Cuba in the spurious list of countries sponsoring terrorism drawn up by the U.S. State Department," he said.
He also noted that the inhumane nature of the blockade was highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic, when sanctions against the island were deliberately tightened to extreme levels.
How is the U.S. blockade of Cuba implemented?
The foreign minister said that in addition to the economic war, Cuba has been and is the victim of sustained media and communication campaigns, aimed at projecting an absolutely false image of human rights and subverting the constitutional order of the nation.
Cuba has ratified most of the international human rights instruments, which places it among the group of UN member states with the highest number of ratifications of this type.
The reality is that in the last four years in Cuba, 129 higher-ranking legal norms have been approved, including the new Constitution of the Republic of 2019, which expands the catalog of rights and guarantees for their effective exercise, and the modern Family Code.
In addition, in 2019, the National Programme against Racism and Racial Discrimination was approved, as an expression of Cuba's political will to eradicate any vestige of this phenomenon.
Since 2021, Cuba has had a National Program for the Advancement of Women and a Comprehensive Strategy for the Prevention and Attention to Gender-Based Violence and Violence in the Family Scenario.
Also in 2021, the National Commission for the application of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was established and, in June 2023, the Cuban Association of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities was created.
The following month, the National Assembly adopted the Comprehensive Policy for the Care of Children, Adolescents and Youth in Cuba, and significant progress has been made in the area of criminal legislation, both procedural and substantive, and due process has been strengthened.
Are Human Rights Guaranteed in Cuba?: A View from Civil Society
The international community will always be able to count on Cuba to defend peace and multilateralism