Human Rights Day – observed annually on 10 December to mark the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – is an opportunity to celebrate the rights we should all enjoy, call for their enjoyment by people everywhere and thank those working hard to achieve this – from frontline UN staffers to international lawyers and grassroots activists.
Thank the UN's human rights champions
This Human Rights Day, we are publicising the important role of the UN's human rights experts, and asking our members and supporters to help us show appreciation for their work.
Independent experts from around the world draw attention to human rights violations, provide analysis on issues such as freedom of expression, and monitor whether states are fulfilling their international human rights obligations.
By highlighting egregious abuses and helping to provide redress for victims, they make a vital contribution to the UN's human rights work. Indeed, they are considered to be among the UN's most effective and responsive mechanisms. They are also unsung heroes - their work is not widely known or understood by the general public.
Many people in the UK will be unaware that there are currently four UK experts working within the UN’s human rights system:
- Ben Emmerson QC, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism
- Malcolm Evans OBE, Chairperson of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture
- Sir Nigel Rodley KBE, member of the Human Rights Committee, which monitors civil and political rights
- Professor Patrick Thornberry CMG, member of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
For Human Rights Day 2012 we called on our members and supporters to show their support for the exceptional British citizens working with the United Nations to further the cause of human rights by signing our letter thanking them for their work.
This action has now closed. Please click here for an update on this initiative.
Your voice counts
By taking this action, you are helping to demonstrate that people in the UK care about human rights. The theme for this year's international observance - your voice counts - is inclusion and the right to participate in public life, a theme that resonates with UNA-UK all year long.
Human rights at home
Throughout 2012, UNA-UK has been working to promote better public engagement on human rights issues:
- We have pushed for stronger parliamentary oversight of the UK's review by the UN Human Rights Council. Last week, we received a positive response from the Joint Committee on Human Rights and we will continue to press for more public engagement with UN mechanisms.
- We have also co-signed a civil society letter to the UK Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, calling on the Government to commit to championing human rights both at home and abroad, including by preserving the Human Rights Act which protects the fundamental rights of people in the UK and allows them to engage directly with public bodies on these issues.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has also been hosting a series of Google+ Hangouts. The final Hangout in the series will be on Monday 10 December when the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, will be answering questions.