In collaboration with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Inter-Parliamentary Union organized from 3 to 5 November 2008 a seminar to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The seminar was held at IPU Headquarters in Geneva. It’s aim was to take a critical look at the achievements and challenges that remained sixty years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Some 100 parliamentarians from 40 national parliaments attended the seminar along with international experts (see final list of participants below). The event was opened by Ms. Elissavet Papademetriou, Vice-President of the IPU Executive Committee and Second Vice-President of the Hellenic Parliament and Mr. Bacre Waly Ndiaye, Director of the Human Rights Council and Treaties Division at OHCHR.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights ushered in a new era of hope for respect of the inherent equality and dignity of all human beings. It set the course for the development of an impressive array of international and regional human rights treaties and the establishment of numerous organizations to promote and further their cause. It brought increased legitimacy to raising human rights issues worldwide and placed them firmly on the agenda of national governments and the international community alike. Yet, along with these remarkable achievements, the last sixty years have also demonstrated that - in the absence of political will and resources - respect for human rights remains a commitment on paper. Economic, social and cultural rights in particular have long gone by the wayside. More recently, the fight against crime and terrorism has put a strain on certain fundamental rights, and there are some who feel that increasing claims for respect of cultural specificity appear to challenge the very notion of the universality of human rights.
During the seminar participants took a close look at these issues, starting first by analysing the international legal human rights framework which was set up following the adoption of the Universal Declaration. In addition, the seminar helped identify concrete ways in which parliaments could respond effectively to old and new challenges to the promotion and protection of human rights.
The summary of the debates and recommendations presented by the Rapporteur of the Seminar, Mr. Mohamed Ahmed Idris, Member of the House of Peoples’ Representatives of Ethiopia, may be found in the document below.