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Human Rights Day

A celebration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

by Elissa Haney

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On December 10, 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris. The historic document, often labeled a "Modern-Day Magna Carta," outlines the human rights standards the UN believes should be enforced by all nations—among them "the right to life, liberty and nationality, to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, to work, to be educated, [and] to take part in government."

That day in 1948 could arguably be called the birth of the modern human rights movement. With widely agreed-upon universal standards in place, "atrocities" could be more concretely labeled "violations" and could be more readily acted against. States that have embraced these standards have, since 1948, observed December 10 as Human Rights Day.

A Multinational Alliance

The human rights cause continues to thrive at the end of the century that saw its development. Newly independent nations have incorporated the UN's standards into their constitutions. Organizations such as Amnesty International (established in 1961) and Human Rights Watch (established in 1978), founded on the principles outlined in the Declaration, have successfully rallied the support of hundreds of thousands of concerned individuals worldwide.

Other International Human Rights Organizations

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