The 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recalls the drafting and adoption of a document, the importance of which both in political and in intellectual terms can hardly be overestimated. Being universal, the Declaration articulates the rights of all human beings, whether held in captivity, whether disabled, whether child or member of an indigenous tribe. The day of the adoption of the Declaration on December 10, 1948, is the most tangible moment in the history of human rights; a history which before December 10, 1948 was characterized by conceptual and political struggles of scholars and politicians in many European and other countries. We must not forget that the “Bill of Rights” of 1776 and the “Déclaration des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen” of 1789 are not expressions of a generic European legal or philosophic tradition. Human rights also for Europe are the result of the experience of arbitrariness, violence and injustice and of the fight against it. The abolition of slavery in many countries and the fight for the right of women to vote in the 19th century contributed to the idea of universality to emerge – a unique feature of the Declaration, in need of constant and enthusiastic advocacy, today maybe more than ever.
Since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, many human rights instruments, bodies and procedures have been introduced. Today we know the “International Bill of Rights” of 1966 and seven other “core human rights conventions”, we know the recently reformed Human Rights Council, a strong High Commissioner of the United Nations for Human Rights, Special Rapporteurs for specific human rights topics and country specific situations, a well-organized NGO structure and Human Rights Institutions in many countries. One of the exciting instruments of the contemporary system for the implementation and monitoring of human rights in political and legal terms is the availability of procedures of individual complaints.
These procedures of individual complaints and how they function still need to be made known much better. Therefore we express our sincere gratitude to the two National Commissions for UNESCO of Germany and France for drafting the Internet-based guide www.claiminghumanrights.org, providing very practical and hands-on information about possibilities of claiming human rights for inhabitants of the African continent. The Foreign Offices of France and Germany have an intimate relationship with these two Commissions and are happy to see a product for the benefit of Africa coming out of this collaboration which is an example of the close relationship between our two countries.
Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid (until 2010)
Ambassador for Human Rights of the French Republic