Today is the anniversary of a milestone in the fight for human rights. On 10 December 1948, the United Nations General Assembly approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are entitled. I previously mentioned the UDHR in my post on Blasphemy Day International.
In the voting for the declaration, forty-eight nations voted in favor, and none voted against. Was the vote unanimous? Not quite: There were eight countries which abstained.
Which countries decided not to cast a vote at all? Byelorussia, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Ukraine, USSR, and Yugoslavia all abstained. Do you think the USSR, at a time when Joseph Stalin was in power, had some influence in those decisions? South Africa abstained. Do you think that the fact that apartheid was made an official policy in the general elections held just seven months earlier, in May of 1948, had something do do with their decision? Saudi Arabia abstained. Perhaps conflicts between the declaration and some concepts of Shari’ah (Islamic religious law) influenced their decision.
Take note of those abstentions. Those countries wished nothing more than to have leave to continue their own particular policies which restricted or denied basic human rights.
The fight for human rights certainly did not end with the adoption of the UDHR. It rages on still today in far too many parts of the world. Groups still inflict their particular brands of hatred and oppression on those they consider to be beneath them. Other groups plot and scheme to find ways to do the same to people not yet under their control.
The fight will never actually come to an end. Even if every man, woman, and child on our planet could be found to have been treated with dignity and respect by every other person on Earth, vigilance would still be required to ensure that those rights were never usurped again.