“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
“Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”
These are quotations from articles I and III of the declaration of human rights, that famous document that was adopted by the United Nations on 10th December, 1948. It has been 60 years since the declaration was made, in an attempt to guarantee humanity to all peoples of the world. The sad thing, however, is that not much has changed since then. Hitler’s concentration camps are no more but Guantanamo still exists. Fascism no longer poses a global threat but millions of human beings – mainly in the third world but in the so cold first world as well – continue to live under the yoke of oppressive governments.
The liberal ideas and hopes for the demise of the all-powerful nation-state to usher in a post-statist human rights respecting new world order have all died. Instead, the state has become more and more powerful as humanity tries to grapple with 21st century problems of terrorism and the economic uncertainties associated with too much integration in the global economy – as is being seen in the current global financial crisis.
The 1948 declaration set the ball rolling, and we should celebrate this great achievement. However, we should forever be vigilant against the emergent challenges to society that have managed to push the respect for human rights to the back seat. The war on terror has brought about enormous challenges to the idea of universal human rights. Should terrorists be accorded these rights? what about those merely suspected of being terrorists? and how about corrupt regimes that help in the “war on terror”? should millions of third world citizens be condemned to a life of misery simply because their unworthy leaders are cooperating in the “war” to save Westerners from attacks?