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FOCUS March 1998 Volume 11

Turning 50


On December 10, 1998, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will be celebrating its golden age of 50. This is what is traditionally said on any 50th anniversary. But human rights being a much more serious matter, the question is: must there be any celebration to be held?

The present UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Mary Robinson, describes the UDHR in 1948 as embodying "...the hopes and even dreams of people still scarred from two World wars, newly fearful of the Cold War and just beginning the great liberation of peoples which came about with the dismantling of the European empires."

Fifty years later, the world is still mired in conditions that prevent the human rights of all from being protected and realized.

But changes have taken place also that make 1998 a much different year from 1948. Significant events have led to a clearer understanding of the whole meaning of the UDHR as they apply to peoples of different situations in different parts of the world. The word "people" has come to mean human beings with varying needs and yet aspiring for the same goal of living in peace with food, freedom and justice.

With a rapidly changing world, the 50th anniversary of the UDHR is an opportunity for thinking about more creative and effective ways of ensuring that human rights will not remain a hope or a dream for the many peoples in this world who are deprived, marginalized and forgotten.