The Human Rights Day is the day to honor the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) at the third session of the United Nations General Assembly in Paris, France on 10 December 1948. In the 20th century, when science and technology developed remarkably, people went through World War II that resulted in the greatest damage to human life and property in the human history. In particular, the number of deaths in World War II was seven times that of World War I (about 80 million), of which about 50 million were civilian victims of starvation, bombing, and war crimes. There were an estimated 21,000,000 refugees in Europe alone, and millions of refugees in China. In Japan, approximately 30 percent of the entire urban population lost their homes and many of their possessions by atomic explosion. The money cost to governments involved has been estimated at more than $1,000,000,000,000, and the massive military expenditures crippled the economy of the countries that fought in the war.

Many, who witnessed the traumatic human rights violations around the world, felt the necessity of solution to protect the universal human rights. Based on this idea, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights was organized, and “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” was proclaimed as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. The 58 member states of the UN from various political, cultural, and religious backgrounds gathered, and a total of 1,400 discussions and votes to complete the Declaration took two full years from January 1947 to December 1948. As a result, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, consisting of the full text and 30 articles was adopted with the approval of 50 countries on December 10, 1948 at the UN General Assembly in Paris.

It is the world’s first pledge that proclaims the universal human rights equal for everyone, everywhere in the world regardless of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. It has been translated into more than 500 languages—the most translated document in the world in the Guinness World Records. Although not legally binding, the content of the UDHR has become the basis of many human right treaties and declarations, and its ideology and content are reflected in the constitutions and laws of many countries. It has become binding as part of customary international law.

2020 Theme: Recover Better—Stand Up for Human Rights

The UN informed that the global COVID-19 crisis has caused a gap in the level of human rights protection by increasing poverty, inequality, and amplification of structured and fixed discrimination, and added that promotion of human right is the only way to ensure the restoration of resilient, just, and sustainable world. For this, they set the theme of the Human Rights Day 2020 as “Effort to Restore Human Rights,” relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Secretary-General António Guterres said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on vulnerable groups, including frontline workers, people with disabilities, older people, women and girls, and minorities. It has thrived because poverty, inequality, discrimination, the destruction of our natural environment, and other human rights failures have created enormous fragilities in our societies. At the same time, the pandemic is undermining human rights, by providing a pretext for heavy-handed security responses and repressive measures that curtail civic space and media freedom. An effective response to the pandemic must be based on solidarity and cooperation. Divisive approaches, authoritarianism and nationalism make no sense against a global threat. People and their rights must be front and centre of response and recovery. We need universal, rights-based frameworks like health coverage for all, to beat this pandemic and protect us for the future.”

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet in a statement on commemoration for International Day of Human Rights on December 10, 2021, emphasized that human rights are the key to solve the social issue caused by the pandemic.

“The medical vaccines that are being developed will hopefully eventually deliver us from COVID-19, albeit not for many months yet. But they will not prevent or cure the socio-economic ravages that have resulted from the pandemic, and aided its spread. But there is a vaccine to hunger, poverty, inequality, and possibly—if it is taken seriously—to climate change, as well as to many of the other ills that face humanity. It is a vaccine we developed in the wake of previous massive global shocks, including pandemics, financial crises and two World Wars. The name of that vaccine is human rights.”

Human Rights & Sustainable Development Goals

The UN SDGs are the universal calls to action for the United Nations and the international community from 2016 to 2030. SDGs, consisting of 17 goals and 169 targets with the ideology: “Leave No One Behind,” promotes for a balanced development of the Earth, presenting that cooperation between the government, private organizations and civil society is required to make sure to leave a better planet for future generations.

The SDGs aims to address social needs such as ending poverty and promoting economic growth, resolving inequality, and improving the education and healthcare environment, while ensuring that all people on the Earth enjoy peace and prosperity by combating climate change and preserving nature. In other words, a specific agenda to guarantee every one of his or her universal human rights is the core of Sustainable Development Goals. Therefore, in the absence of human dignity, that is, human rights, we cannot hope to drive sustainable development.

Due to the pandemic, the poor and the underprivileged of our society were deprived of basic rights such as education, medical care, and jobs, and suffered greater damage. Human rights violations were intensified due to inequality, conflict, and violence. The UN has addressed the need for sustainable development to overcome this crisis and for a better recovery where no one is left out.

Human Rights Day Events in Each Country

In Geneva, on 10 December, OHCHR hosted “Recover Better: Stand Up For Human Rights,” an exclusive online audio-visual event. The 90-minute programme highlighted the importance of human rights for the recovery from COVID-19, and organized solidarity for a better world.

The UN held a virtual event about Human Rights: “A Celebration of COVID-19 Frontline Heroes.” This one-hour event spotlighted frontline workers who have borne the brunt of the pandemic, and community organizers who have helped those around them to cope with the pandemic in a human rights-centered manner.

In Uganda, an essay competition for students was held to reflect on a wide range of emerging human rights issues in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. In Ukraine, an outdoor photo exhibition was held to highlight the stories of those who are at risk of being left behind during the pandemic. In Latin America, an online concert was organized on recovering better through music. In addition, local governments and non-governmental organizations in each country have held human rights forums, campaigns, contests, and exhibitions to commemorate the Human Rights Day and provide opportunities to reflect on the human rights of all.


More than 70 years have passed since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was announced, but human rights violations are still taking place around the world. Furthermore, the concept of human rights is vaguely known, and only a few people know how our human rights were established and what rights are included in it. The UN member states have committed to work with the UN to respect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms together. However, in order to fully accomplish these pledges, it is of paramount importance for everyone to have a common understanding of what human rights are and what freedom is.

Therefore, ASEZ is carrying out a campaign at universities around the world on December 10 every year to promote human rights, the basic right and an obligation to be respected as human, and improve the awareness of human rights. This year, they are carrying out the “People First” Campaign online. At this campaign, they informed that the purpose of event is to improve awareness of human rights of the socially underprivileged and that of others, and create a world that always put people first, even in the pandemic crisis.

The right to be healthy, to pursue happiness, to be educated, and to earn a living through labor, even in peace, in the midst of national difficulties, and in the pandemic era, is what everyone must enjoy invariably to protect their diversity and identity. It is “human rights.” However, many people are having their rights that they deserve as human beings threatened by the small virus.

We can make a better recovery by thinking of the following questions: “Who are suffering the most, why are they suffering, and what we can do for them?” The “People First” Campaign consists of watching videos and reading card news on human rights, and taking quiz after reading the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And it helps to reflect on the human rights of others, the socially underprivileged, and all people, who should not be marginalized.

Your concern for everyone’s right will have influence on making this world of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Eleanor Roosevelt, Chair of the United Nations Human Rights Commission said,

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. . . . Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”

As she said, the achievement of universal human rights begins with small actions, by one person—very close to your deeds. Why don’t you read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights right away to look around you and exercise your influence for the advanced world?