Each year the UN International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. The General Assembly has unanimously declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.
Hearkening back to a pivotal document in the establishment of the United Nations, this year’s theme is: The Right to Peace: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.
A Canadian, John Peters Humphrey, the first director of the UN Human Rights Division, played a pivotal role in the drafting of this document. It is also interesting to note in light of current events that, while no UN member state voted against the universal declaration, eight countries abstained, including Saudi Arabia.
Broadly speaking, John Peters Humphrey was one of the most important and influential figures in the history of human rights. In many ways, his work has helped shape the culture and politics of human rights in countries across the world. – Shaden Hetu-Frankel, McGill Blogs
Since that landmark document was achieved, the United Nations and its member states have come to understand that a positive peace, based on a just and inclusive society, is an essential precondition for sustainable development.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a reminder that peace takes root when people are free from hunger, poverty and oppression and can thrive and prosper. – UN Secretary-General António Guterres
It is fitting that Canadians take pride in the central role that one of our own played in the achievement of a pivotal human rights document to guide and inspire the world. But to truly honour the legacy of John Humphrey, we must surely address the question posed by NDP MP Hélène Laverdière in the House of Commons on 20 September:
How can Canada defend human rights while selling arms to Saudi Arabia?
For more information on Saudi Arabian atrocities in Yemen, see: UN experts accuse Saudi Arabia, U.A.E. of war crimes in Yemen (Associated Press via CBC.ca news, 28 August 2018).
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons images (Doves)