Human Rights Day 2021
Human Rights Day is one of the most important days on the international calendar.
It is a day for reflection. And it is also a day for hope.
Some might ask: where is the cause for hope in a year when millions have been forced to flee violence and conflict, when there have been brutal crackdowns on human rights defenders, and when our world teeters on the brink of climate catastrophe?
We have hope because, despite this, the vision of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights endures. We draw hope because people from all countries, from all backgrounds, continue to be inspired by its vision for a life of dignity, and a world where we are all human and all equal.
We have hope because people continue to embrace and exercise their rights, especially – to quote Elanor Roosevelt – ‘in the small places, close to home’; in their places of study and work, in their towns and neighbourhoods, in their everyday relationships.
As national human rights institutions, you have also been a source of hope this year: through your work to investigate, monitor and report on human rights violations, to advise governments, to advocate for justice, and to stand against the voices of prejudice.
Individually and collectively, our mission as NHRIs is to help build fair, just and inclusive communities. The sort of communities envisioned by the Universal Declaration.
This year, we pay tribute to the contribution of human rights defenders to our communities. We know the deep courage and commitment they display. To support victims. To promote dignity and justice. To raise issues that matter to people.
We also know the risks they face.
The same is true for many NHRIs, who face threats and reprisals for courageously fulfilling their mandate.
It is vital that human rights defenders, including women human rights defenders, have the support and protection they need to work, to be effective and to be safe.
It is equally important that NHRIs collaborate with human rights defenders and others in our communities to ensure there is a strong civic space, where all voices can be heard.
It is this practical work that gives substance to the vision of the Universal Declaration. It also helps to build and sustain hope within our communities.
I trust this Human Rights Day is a time of reflection and celebration for your NHRI and those who support you in your work.