December 10, 2008 is the 60th Anniversary of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and residents of Chapel Hill and Carrboro are celebrating this historic day. So are the residents of many cities in the United States and around the world. Eleanor Roosevelt, who chaired the committee that drafted the Declaration, presented it at the United Nations Assembly on December 9, 1948 with the words:
It is not a treaty; It is not and does not purport to be a statement of law or of legal obligation. It is a Declaration of basic principles of human rights and freedoms.
Every country has signed the Declaration, yet none could boast after 60 years of effort that they have met its high standards --- to ensure the dignity and well being of all their people.
A lesson learned over these 60 years is that human rights don't “drop from the sky.” People must be vigilant of government programs and the compliance of the private sector entities with regulations and laws. Human rights are grounded in respect for the rights and dignity of others. For this reason human rights are not simply legal instruments, but also everyday practices, rooted in community culture and in rhythms of everyday life. They are collective like democracy is - the more people participate the better the outcome for everyone. They encompass the rights of distant others – say, labor protections for workers round the world.
The Steering Committee of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Human Rights Initiative, UNC students, community youth, nonprofits, activists, and advocacy groups have planned a week of forums and events. The idea is to bring us together around a common purpose to learn about, celebrate, and advance – in a spirit of humility and solidarity - the inalienable human rights that we all share.