10.12.2018 - UNESCO Office in Apia

Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Samoa - Statement of UNESCO and OHCHR

“The idea of human rights, is that each one of us, no matter who we are or where we were born is entitled to same basic rights or freedom.”

2018 marks 70 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly at its third session on 10 December 1948 as Resolution 217 at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, France, as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a milestone document in the history of human rights. The Declaration sets out universal values and a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. It establishes the equal dignity and worth of every person. Thanks to the Declaration, and States’ commitments to its principles, the dignity of millions has been uplifted and the foundation for a more just world has been laid.

Seventy years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UNESCO as well as the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights in Suva,  strives daily to improve knowledge and understanding of all human rights for the Pacific people: whether civil, cultural, economic, political or social.

Four human rights fall within UNESCO’s direct competence, namely, right to education (Article 26), right to take part in cultural life (Article 27), right to freedom of opinion and expression (Article 19), and right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications (Article 27).  Education for and on human rights have become a priority for UNESCO which is now recognized as a leader in this field within the United Nations system. UNESCO also works to mainstream human rights in all its areas of action and the pursuit at further integrating a human rights-based approach into its programmes, thereby increasing its contribution to the advancement of human rights.

Speaking on the issue, Ms Nisha, Director of the Office and UNESCO Representative to the Pacific States, said, “In today’s context when both wealth and inequalities are growing and the world is marked by a high population dependency rates, the application of human rights-based approach to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda becomes critical. The pursuit of the sustainable development goals or the SDGs must be through the lenses of human rights, which include socio-cultural, political and labour rights, to ensure growth with equity. The voluntary national reports, therefore, should draw on feedback from the human rights mechanisms and conventions-related committees of UNESCO and the ILO and actions taken on them to enhance coherence, efficiency and accountability in reporting on the principles of the 2030 Agenda.” 

 “The UDHR, which is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”, has provided hope and protection for untold numbers of vulnerable people and communities for seven decades,” said Ms Chitralekha Massey, the Representative of OHCHR Regional Office for the Pacific, adding, “We urge women, men and young people in Samoa and in the Pacific to Stand Up for Human Rights and continue playing their roles to prevent the principles of UDHR from being eroded and let it remain relevant to everyone, every day.”

UNESCO Office for the Pacific States with the support of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Samoa Observer and Apollo Cinema hosted an event to celebrate the 70 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Samoa. This event featured a series of speeches and discussions on UDHR with perspectives from diverse stakeholders. The discussions touched upon a wide range of topics from addressing emerging challenges to human rights in Samoa and the Pacific to the role of the United Nations in supporting countries to promote human rights.

The celebration was also highlighted by the movie screening of WARU. This 2017 feature film was directed by eight Māori women who each contributed a 10-minute segment of events circling around the tangi of a small boy (Waru) who died at the hands of his caregiver. The interconnected stories show the shared humanity rooted in universal values. When people stand up for their rights and those of others, all of us are protected.

Paula Jones, one of the eight directors, was present at the event to share her stories and thoughts behind this powerful movie that demonstrates the strength of community to resolve human rights challenges. She is the Director of Whitiora Productions Ltd and New Zealand Māori film-maker. Over the last 20 years, she has directed and produced a wide range of works from truancy and street kids, to a biopic on Transgender community worker Mama Tere; from women in gangs to using rats to clear land mines in Cambodia.

The power of the Universal Declaration is the power of ideas to change the world. It inspires people to continue working to ensure all people can gain freedom, equality and dignity.  At its 70th anniversary, let us take the chance to celebrate the gift of the Universal Declaration and to reaffirm the enduring human rights principles and standards it has helped establish.

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