On December 10, the U.S. Institute of Peace joins the world in commemorating the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an historic achievement affirming every person’s right to dignity, justice and peace.

Eleanor Roosevelt holding Universal Declaration of Human Rights

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been the global foundation for human rights for 70 years,” said the U.S. Institute of Peace’s president, Nancy Lindborg. “The Institute’s work is driven by a commitment to upholding those rights by building peace.”

The inextricable link between human rights and peace is the theme of the 70th anniversary commemoration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “There is more to achieving peace than laying down weapons. True peace requires standing up for the human rights of all the world’s people,” said António Guterres, the United Nations secretary-general. “Let us stand up for human rights for all, in the name of peace for all.”

‘A Magna Carta for Mankind’

The declaration emerged from the horrors of World War II, which resulted in over 65 million deaths. A groundbreaking document, the declaration universalized human rights and internationalized responsibility for protecting those rights. Eleanor Roosevelt, who led the effort to have the Universal Declaration ratified at the U.N., called it a “Magna Carta for mankind.” Written as an aspirational document, today the Universal Declaration is recognized as the global standard.

In some of the world’s deadliest places, human rights abuses spur violent conflict. Violent conflicts cause unacceptable levels of civilian casualties, atrocities and abuses in fragile states.

Effective protection of human rights underpins the legitimate governance and rule of law that establish the conditions for a state to resolve conflicts and grievances without violence. The most unequal societies are often the most violent. Weak institutions, rampant corruption, and high levels of exclusion fuel insecurity and damage communities and economies. More than half of the world’s poorest people are projected to live in fragile states by 2030.

The challenges posed today by fragile states and a rise in autocratic states reinforce the relevance of the Universal Declaration 70 years later.

USIP and Human Rights

USIP provides grants, fellowships, education and publications to deepen understanding of the critical role of human rights protection in preventing and managing violence. As the Institute’s global team works with governments, civil society and faith leaders, women and youth to prevent and reduce violent conflict, we are guided above all by the belief that every person in every place deserves the opportunity to live in peace.

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