On December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Paris with resolution 217/A.
The context of its approval must be reconstructed in the light of recent events: after the massacre of the Second World War - in which 17 million people had lost their lives - and the related serious violations of human dignity, the need to create systems to curb the arbitrariness of States towards their citizens had begun to be felt: this document was one of the first responses to this need. Human rights were finally described here as principles that transcended domestic politics and that the international community, therefore, had to recognize and protect. The existence of a series of individual rights that no state, whether in peace or war, should ever violate was therefore affirmed. For this reason, and by its very nature, the document represents a milestone in this area and the basis for much of the subsequent legislation, a commitment made by a number of nations in a newly established international forum. It was also a sign of a change of consciousness at global level.
The UN Commission on Human Rights met for the first time in January 1947 and was chaired by the former American First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The draft it had elaborated had been voted by the Assembly several times - the last time on December 10 - by the 58 States that, at that time, were members of the International Organization. In the final vote 48 countries voted in favour, 8 abstained (mainly states that were part of the communist bloc) and two (Yemen and Honduras) did not participate in the vote. The principles contained in the Declaration are divided into 30 articles.
Although the General Assembly resolution was not binding (by their nature, such resolutions have the value of recommendations, which are intended to guide and inspire the behavior of states), it is particularly significant for its historical value and the importance commonly accorded to it by the international community. Furthermore, the act was subsequently used as the basis for numerous binding international treaties, as well as for various constitutions and laws that made it mandatory to respect and protect the principles stated in it. Over the years, various instruments have been established within the framework of the United Nations for their protection, such as the Human Rights Council and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The importance and topicality of the Declaration is still evident today if we consider that, according to Amnesty International and Human Rights Defenders Memorial, around 3,500 people who defended human rights were killed between 1998 and 2016 alone, and the violations of human rights by various countries are, unfortunately, before the eyes of all of us every day. Moreover, the principles established by it are often violated, to varying degrees, by democratic countries themselves: all this shows that what was established 70 years ago is still not universally respected. It is not enough, therefore, to exercise, taking them for granted, the rights enjoyed today by the majority of citizens of the most advanced democracies: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not a document of the past that can be forgotten or considered obsolete, a "normal" decision of history that, over the decades, has lost its relevance. The freedoms we have, without it, would not have the same strength and it would be more difficult to reaffirm and defend them.
Below is the summary of the act - 30 articles establishing principles that have become indispensable today:
Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
Article 2: All individuals are holders of the rights expressed in the declaration, without distinction - race, gender, religion, language, opinion, national or social origin, property possessed or other characteristics.
Article 3: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security.
Article 4: no one may be enslaved
Article 5: No one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, degrading or inhuman treatment.
Article 6: everyone has the right to the recognition of his or her own legal personality, wherever he or she may be
Article 7: all individuals are equal before the law
Articles 8-9-10-11: all are entitled to a fair trial and no one can be arbitrarily arrested
Article 12: no one shall be arbitrarily interfered with in their private life
Article 13: Everyone has the freedom of movement within the borders of each State.
Article 14: everyone has the right to seek political asylum elsewhere
Article 15: everyone has the right to citizenship and no one may be deprived of it
Article 16: everyone has the right to marry and choose their partner, regardless of religious or other differences
Article 17: Everyone has the right to property.
Articles 18-19-20: everyone has the right to freedom of religion, opinion, expression and association
Article 21: Every citizen has the right to participate in the government of his or her country and to stand for public office. The legitimacy of a government is guaranteed by free periodic elections by universal suffrage.
Article 22: right to social security and enjoyment of social, economic and cultural rights in relation to the possibilities of the State
Article 23: right to work without discrimination, to fair pay and freedom to join trade unions
Article 24: right to rest and leisure, with appropriate working hours and periodic leave
Article 25: right to an adequate standard of living and to social security measures (for example, in the event of sickness or unemployment), including protection of children and maternity
Article 26: right to education
Article 27: right to participate in the cultural life of society
Article 28: individual right to a social and international order permitting the protection of the rights set out in the Declaration
Article 29: the only restrictions which may be imposed on these rights are those designed to protect the rights and freedoms of others, public order, morals and the general well-being of society.
Article 30: nothing in the declaration may be interpreted as implying the right of a State to infringe its rights.