Human Rights



I am very honoured to be with you today.

Over the past seven decades, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has had a revolutionary impact.

The Declaration is universal not only in its very nature but also in its reach.

It has permeated policies and constitutions in all regions.

It has unleashed the power of women’s full participation and spurred the fight against discrimination and racism.

It has given rise to a rich body of legally binding international human rights treaties and it continues to be an inspiration to people around the world.

However, we still have a long way to go before respect for human rights is truly universal.

The words of the Declaration are not yet matched by facts on the ground.

In practice, people all over the world still endure constraints on – or even total denial – of their human rights.

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration says it so superbly: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

The social, political, economic and cultural rights enshrined in this foundational document belong to everyone, everywhere – independent of race, colour, gender, language, faith or opinion.

The ambitious task of drafting this landmark document was completed in just two years.

Determined to prevent the atrocities of the Second World War from ever happening again, the drafting committee – comprised of representatives from Australia, Canada, Chile, China, France, Lebanon, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States – worked with great efficiency and perseverance.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s leading role as the Chairperson of the drafting committee is well known.

At a time of increasing East-West tensions, Ms. Roosevelt managed to skilfully steer the drafting process toward its successful completion.

Other women, although not part of the official drafting committee, also played essential parts in shaping the document.

Some of them and their contributions are highlighted in this exhibit.

Hansa Mehta of India, for example, without whom we would likely be speaking of the Universal Declaration of “the Rights of Man” rather than of “Human Rights.”

Or Begum Shaista Ikramullah of Pakistan, who championed Article 16 on equal rights in marriage, to combat child marriage and forced marriage.

Or Minerva Bernardino of the Dominican Republic, who successfully argued for inclusion of “the equality of men and women” in the preamble of the Universal Declaration.

Ms. Bernardino, together with other Latin American women delegates – Bertha Lutz of Brazil and Isabel de Vidal of Uruguay – also played a crucial role a few years earlier in the drafting of the United Nations Charter, which became the first international agreement to recognize the equal rights of men and women, paving the way for the Universal Declaration.

At this pivotal moment in our struggle for gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide, we want to pay tribute to those pioneers.

They are an inspiration to us all, especially to young women and men today.

Let us keep up the struggle.

Let us put the Universal Declaration’s powerful words into action.

The Sustainable Development Agenda – which aims to lift millions from poverty and enable them to exercise their inalienable rights – has human rights at its core and as its foundation.

Lasting peace and inclusive sustainable development can never be achieved without full respect for human rights.

So, ladies and gentlemen, on this anniversary, let us not only reflect on the enduring importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, let us also speak out and stand up for human rights everywhere.

Thank you.


Secretary-General appoints Michelle Bachelet of Chile as

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, New York, 10 August 2018

 United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, following approval by the General Assembly, has appointed Michelle Bachelet of Chile as the next United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.  She will succeed Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein of Jordan, to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for his commitment and dedicated service to the United Nations.

Ms. Bachelet ended her second four-year term as President of Chile in March this year, having already held the position between 2006 and 2010.  She was the first woman to be elected to Chile’s highest office.  After her first term, she joined the United Nations as the first Executive Director of the newly established United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women).

A long-time human rights champion and ground-breaking leader, Ms. Bachelet is a pediatrician who began her government career as an adviser in the Health Ministry, rising quickly to become the first woman to lead Chile’s Health Ministry in 2000 and Defence Ministry in 2002.  She became involved in Chilean human rights activism in the early 1970s.  Ms. Bachelet and her parents were political prisoners in their country.  Her father, a general in the air force died while in prison.  After their release, Ms. Bachelet and her mother spent several years in exile.  She returned to Chile in 1979, finished school and became a pediatrician and public health advocate.

Ms. Bachelet holds a medical degree.  She studied military strategy at Chile’s National Academy of Strategy and Policy and at the Inter-American Defense College in the United States.



 In answer to questions following the announcement by the United States of its decision to withdraw from the Human Rights Council, the Spokesman for the Secretary-General has the following to say:  

The Secretary-General would have much preferred for the United States to remain in the Human Rights Council. The UN’s Human Rights architecture plays a very important role in the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide.   

Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General