Statement of VIPs


Excerpts from President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize Speech

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Distinguished Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, citizens of America, and citizens of the world:

I receive this honor with deep gratitude and great humility. It is an award that speaks to our highest aspirations - that for all the cruelty and hardship of our world, we are not mere prisoners of fate. Our actions matter, and can bend history in the direction of justice.

One urgent example is the effort to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, and to seek a world without them. In the middle of the last century, nations agreed to be bound by a treaty whose bargain is clear: all will have access to peaceful nuclear power; those without nuclear weapons will forsake them; and those with nuclear weapons will work toward disarmament. I am committed to upholding this treaty. It is a centerpiece of my foreign policy. And I am working with President Medvedev to reduce America and Russia's nuclear stockpiles.

But it is also incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system. Those who claim to respect international law cannot avert their eyes when those laws are flouted. Those who care for their own security cannot ignore the danger of an arms race in the Middle East or East Asia. Those who seek peace cannot stand idly by as nations arm themselves for nuclear war.

The same principle applies to those who violate international law by brutalizing their own people. When there is genocide in Darfur; systematic rape in Congo; or repression in Burma - there must be consequences. And the closer we stand together, the less likely we will be faced with the choice between armed intervention and complicity in oppression.

This brings me to a second point - the nature of the peace that we seek. For peace is not merely the absence of visible conflict. Only a just peace based upon the inherent rights and dignity of every individual can truly be lasting.

It was this insight that drove drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after the Second World War. In the wake of devastation, they recognized that if human rights are not protected, peace is a hollow promise.

And yet all too often, these words are ignored. In some countries, the failure to uphold human rights is excused by the false suggestion that these are Western principles, foreign to local cultures or stages of a nation's development. And within America, there has long been a tension between those who describe themselves as realists or idealists - a tension that suggests a stark choice between the narrow pursuit of interests or an endless campaign to impose our values.

I reject this choice. I believe that peace is unstable where citizens are denied the right to speak freely or worship as they please; choose their own leaders or assemble without fear. Pent up grievances fester, and the suppression of tribal and religious identity can lead to violence. We also know that the opposite is true. Only when Europe became free did it finally find peace. America has never fought a war against a democracy, and our closest friends are governments that protect the rights of their citizens. No matter how callously defined, neither America's interests - nor the world's -are served by the denial of human aspirations.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres remarks at Human Rights Day Event, 10 December 2017.

We have to thank a generation of world leaders, who emerged from a world war convinced that only justice would build peace among and within nations.

And we have to thank activists and human rights defenders – hundreds of thousands of ordinary people around the world who have mobilized to defend fundamental rights with immense courage, often in the face of extreme danger.

But as well as celebrating, we must also take stock of where we have fallen short.

In practice, recognition of the inherent dignity and equal rights of human beings is still far from universal.

Millions of people continue to suffer human rights violations and abuses around the world.

And human rights defenders still face persecution, reprisals are rising and the space for civil society action is shrinking in very many nations.

But the founders of the United Nations were right.

Lasting peace and security can never be achieved in any country without respect for human rights.

The Sustainable Development Agenda – which aims to lift millions from poverty and enable them to access their economic and social rights -- is deeply rooted in respect for human rights.

So, Excellencies and ladies and gentlemen, we are here today not just to mark another anniversary and then go about our usual business.

We are here to reflect on the core and enduring importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to engage those around us to put its powerful words into practice.

We are here to affirm the existential commitment of the whole UN system to ensure that the central focus of all our policies is the advancement of human dignity, equality and rights.

And we are here to speak out and take a stand for human rights.

All of us have a role to play -- at work, in the street, in our daily lives.

As Secretary-General, I take the pledge that we are all being asked to take today by the UN Human Rights Office – the pledge is the following:

“I will respect your rights regardless of who you are.

I will uphold your rights even when I disagree with you.

When anyone’s human rights are denied, everyone’s rights are undermined, so I will stand up.

I will raise my voice. I will take action. I will use my rights to stand up for your rights.”

As Secretary-General, I am committed and will remain engaged in human rights, including by speaking out for those in need, promoting justice for all, and by ensuring that human rights are integrated throughout the work of the United Nations.

This is the path to a world of peace, dignity and opportunity for all.

Thank you very much.

Excerpts from the Speech of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein on the occasion of Human Rights Day, 10 December 2017.

It is a profound honour to speak to you on this occasion, and I am most grateful for the initiative of Mayor Hidalgo in calling us to this deeply symbolic place. Here in the Palais de Chaillot, 69 years ago, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Just outside is the great area known as the Parvis des Droits de l'Homme – a place of activism, where ordinary people come together to demand an end to deprivation and oppression of all kinds. Beyond lies the Eiffel Tower, which was built for the Universal Exhibition of 1889, to celebrate democracy and the centenary of the French Revolution.

And throughout the city of Paris, whose brilliance has been nourished by cultures from across the world, echo those myriad voices calling for justice and freedom, which arise from every ethical, religious and philosophical tradition in world history, the French Revolution among them: these are the sources from which the Universal Declaration was formed.

In perhaps the most resonant and beautiful words of any international agreement, it proclaims "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights". Human rights are not a reward for good behaviour. They are not country-specific, or particular to a certain era or social group. They are the inalienable and inseparable entitlements of all people, at all times, and in all places — people of every colour, from every race and ethnic group; whether or not they are disabled; no matter their sex, their class, their caste, their creed, their age or sexual orientation; whether they are citizens or migrants – and I must insist on this: migrants too have human rights, and the migration crisis which Europe is facing is above all a matter of human rights.

The Declaration's affirmation of our universal equality, and its enumeration of the rights which are fundamental to lives of dignity and freedom, have empowered millions of people to demand an end to tyranny, discrimination and exploitation. In discrediting the oppression and contempt for human beings that have scarred human history, the Declaration is a mighty philosophical achievement. But it is also a plan of action.

Since the Universal Declaration was adopted, countless people have gained greater freedom. Violations have been prevented. Independence and personal and collective autonomy have been attained. Many people – though not all; tragically, far from all – have secured freedom from torture, unjustified imprisonment, persecution and discrimination, and fair access to education, economic opportunities, and adequate resources and services. They have obtained justice for wrongs, and national and international protection for their rights.

That movement towards progress has not been easy or smooth. In the past seven decades, many governments have failed to uphold their commitments to protect and promote the rights of all people. Activists have struggled to attain justice and rights, and many have faced disgraceful oppression. The global human rights movement has suffered obstacles, assaults and backlashes; today we pay tribute to the countless heroes who have risked, and sometimes lost, their lives to defend the lives of others. Nowhere have rights been irreversibly achieved; in every country, it seems, groups of people or aspiring leaders may seize on the pretext of a conflict, or security threat, to undermine or attack fundamental principles.

This abandonment of humanity's values puts all of us in danger. Time and again, the denial of human rights considerations by the leaders of nations has proven itself to be absolutely disastrous in terms of preventing terrorism, misery, violence and conflict. Only justice can build sustainable peace – within nations, and between them. This is the lesson our forbears learned, so bitterly, from the calamities of war and exploitation – and among those many wise men and women, allow me to cite René Cassin, that great French hero, wounded in the First World War, a Résistant in the Second, who lost many members of his family in the Shoah and who brought to us this lesson: It is by upholding human rights that we build enduring security.

And these rights are too important to be left to States alone. Our forbears, the men and women of the historical struggles for rights, fought to end slavery, colonialism, segregation, apartheid and more. They did this with political activism, using economic leverage, by standing up for their principles in the millions of gestures of their everyday lives.

It is up to us, now. It is up to me; to you, in this room; to every kind of audience we can reach, in every city and province and country where there is still space to express thoughts, participate in decisions, raise one's voice. We need to stand up for the human rights system, and act to promote peace.

We need to fight back against discrimination, and uphold justice.

We must organize and mobilise in defence of human decency, in defence of a common future and in defence of human rights.

The time is now, and the leader you are looking for is – you.

Speech by Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu, Honourable Vice President of India at the Human Rights Day, organized by the National Human Rights Commission, in New Delhi on December 10, 2017.

I am happy to be with all of you this evening for celebrating the Human Rights Day. Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings without discrimination. Human Rights Day, observed on 10 December every year commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This has been a guiding document to guarantee the rights of every individual without discrimination and one that would serve as a valuable ally to the UN Charter in ensuring global peace and security.
The human rights discourse has assumed great importance especially in the last few decades, with human rights being viewed by governments and civil society alike, as indispensable to the realization of development goals, including the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The arena of human rights and social justice has gradually expanded over the decades to include among others, the right to healthcare, education, food, forest rights for indigenous communities as well as policy-level interventions in the form of affirmative action for the historically marginalized and discriminated. Further, issues of gender, youth, the differently-abled, and the elderly are also recognized as important human right concerns today.
India has been unequivocal in its commitment to the preservation and protection of human rights globally as well as within the country. It is a signatory to several of the core international human rights and International Labour Organizations (ILO) conventions.
Our commitment for human rights is part of our culture, from time immemorial it always respected others Human Rights. We have a noble saying called “Sarve Janah Sukhino Bhavantu,” We believe in the principle of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam- The entire Universe is one Family”.
Civil rights, Minority rights and others are guaranteed in India not just because they are in the constitution, they are guaranteed because they are part of our DNA.
“Secularism which got included in the constitution at a later stage is ingrained in our DNA from the beginning,” India as a country has no history of aggression of any kind. We tried to assimilate all the people who have come here.
In addition to being a signatory to these important human rights conventions, our country’s Constitution has given a robust human rights protection framework. An independent judiciary, free media and an active civil society and a number of independent human right bodies, such as, the National Human Rights Commission provide a vigorous and effective network for human rights protection and an effective system of checks and balances.
The establishment of urban and rural local self-government, notably the three-tier Panchayati Raj System is also a crucial component of this human rights protection framework, for it has taken development, human rights, and social-economic welfare down to the very grassroot level. Local self-governance in India has opened up new vistas in women’s empowerment and the participation of historically marginalized groups such as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in local governance/public affairs, thus, bolstering our shared vision for the realization of human rights and human empowerment.
Women constitute 33% in majority of local bodies, and 50% in many of the state. I believe in the coming days we will have considerable representation even in the legislature and also in Parliament.
It was in keeping with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 and the endorsement by the General Assembly of the United Nations through its Resolution of 20 December 1993, that countries across the world established their respective National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs). The National Human Rights Commission of India was also instituted by the Parliament of India with a view to realize the cherished goal of equal rights and life opportunities for all people.
Since its inception in 1993, the NHRC, India has played a pivotal role in the enforcement of the fundamental rights outlined in our Constitution and those contained in key international human rights instruments to which India is a party. In addition, it has done much by way of spreading human rights awareness and sensitization among governments and members of civil society on the importance of safeguarding human rights.
We have retired Chief Justice of India as the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, that itself shows our commitment to Human Rights.
However, despite this formidable human rights protection framework and the significant strides we have made since our independence, there are several human rights challenges that continue to confront us as a nation.
Poverty is perhaps the biggest affront to human dignity and fulfillment and among the major challenges to realizing a truly democratic India. Rapid strides have been made since independence but a sizeable proportion of India’s population lives below the poverty line.
We are all engaged in eradicating poverty. We have chosen the path of inclusive growth that is including the people in the developmental agenda of the nation. Welfare measures taken by the government such as Jandhan, Mudra and others are moving in a direction to eradicate poverty.
In this regard, India is committed to implement Agenda 2030 on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are rooted in a human rights approach towards ending poverty and other forms of discrimination and inequity. The government is taking proactive measures for ending poverty and hunger, improving health and education, making cities more sustainable, combating climate change, and protecting oceans and forests.
India has taken steps to make the right to education a cardinal principle of state policy. Universal access to education and creating a literate world has been the focus of governments. However, there are challenges in terms of illiteracy and quality of schooling. Literacy is crucial as a human right and also for successful functioning of democracy and socio-economic development of the country. Although according to 2011 Census, the literacy rate has risen to 74.04 per cent, the female literacy rate stands at 65.46 per cent. I believe that democracy can effectively flourish only when people know their rights and privileges and also their duties and responsibilities.
Women empowerment and gender equality are important issues for our democracy as the position of women is still precarious, especially in rural areas, despite the fact that women, according to the 2011 census, comprise 58.7 crore (48.5%) of the country’s total population. Gender inequality is among the key social disparities that keeps large numbers of women on the margin of ‘new India’. Poor literacy rates and discrimination is education against the girl child have contributed to enhancing the vulnerability of women in society. There has been some improvement in the last 10 years in the sex ratio but challenges of female feticide and pre-natal sex selection persist. I am happy that programmes like ‘Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao’ are being taken up responding to these challenges. The right to shelter is another right that impacts the quality of life. India has embarked on a number of programs that seek to make this a reality.
The challenges of caste and communalism are major challenges to Indian democracy which serve to weaken the stability of the country with the potential to disrupt peaceful co-existence in our multi-religious and multi-cultural society.
These challenges are sometimes being exploited for personal, political and sectarian gains and that is a big challenge to us.
Indian democracy has also been confronted with terrorism and extremist violence both of which tend to trample upon the right to life and liberty of individuals. Any violence and senseless killings are the worst forms of violation of human rights and need to be dealt with accordingly.
We as a nation believe in peaceful co-existence, but unfortunately some people take terror as a state policy. Terror has no religion, but unfortunately some people are give a communal colour and using it as protection. “Terror is the enemy of Humanity”
I hope the United Nation Security Council completes the consultation at the earliest, and come to conclusion to take firm action against terror.
Corruption poses a serious development challenge and is a violator of people’s rights. In the political realm, it undermines democracy and good governance by subverting formal processes.
‘Justice’ has and must continue to remain the first principle of social and political institutions. The notion of justice focuses on a sense of fairness and protection of rights guaranteed under various laws of the land. However, the speed and alacrity with which justice is done is important. Human rights of all law abiding citizens must be protected with timely objective dispensation of justice.
Today’s Human Rights Day marks an importance milestone for not only India, but the world at large. The true test of ‘good governance’ is the degree to which a State delivers on the promise of civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. Thus, the key benchmark for judging effective governance is whether or not public institutions are effectively guaranteeing rights such as right to health, housing, food, education, and justice, besides ensuring effective safety in the country. This is the ideal world view we have inherited from ancient sages who said ‘Sarve Janaah Sukhino Bhavantu’ and also from the founding fathers who advocated the Antyodaya approach.
Our country’s cultural ethos has human rights as the underlying principle. It recognizes and respects human rights of all human beings. Living together without aggression and learning from others around the world has been our world view. Ours is a land that had said at least an million years ago: “aa no bhadrah krathavo yanthu vishwathaha” Let noble thoughts come to us from all over the world.
It is heartening to note that the NHRC, India on its part has been striving to protect and promote the constitutional rights of the common citizens, and has gradually expanded its scope of activity to embrace newer human right challenges and concerns with a view to promote a culture of human rights in the country.
On this momentous occasion, therefore, let us re-dedicate ourselves to our shared mission as Indian citizens to uphold the dignity and rights of all people of the country and infuse our national consciousness with the spirit of the greatest respect for all human life and our natural environment.

Message from Mr. Justice H.L. Dattu, Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission, India on the eve of Human Rights Day-2017.

New Delhi, 9th December, 2017.

"Tomorrow on the 10th December is Human Rights Day. It is observed and celebrated on this day to mark the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 by the General Assembly of the United Nations. The Day reminds us that human rights are our basic rights. These include our right to live with liberty, equality and dignity, our right to health, education, freedom of speech and thoughts.

The occasion provides us an opportunity for re-motivating ourselves to use our freedom to stand up not only for the protection of our rights but also of others. If we follow our duties as a citizen, our human rights will automatically get protected. And for this, we must, first, remember to respect the rights of others. We must ensure that in exercise of our freedom we do not violate others' lawful and natural rights. I am sure, many incidents of human rights violations, which we witnessed in the past, may have not happened, if we were little careful on these counts.

The Preamble of the Constitution of India and the Articles relating to the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of State Policy make the protection of human rights a Constitutional obligation for the citizens as well as the governments elected by them.

The National Human Rights Commission, India, mandated for the promotion and protection of human rights, has entered the 25th year of its existence on the 12th October, 2017.

On the eve of Human Rights Day, the Commission rededicates itself to continue this mission, as per its mandate, to raise concerns on any action, policy or law, which impinge on human rights in the country. To this effect, the interventions of the Commission should not be seen and sought to be interpreted having an adversarial role to the functioning of governments. The interventions of the Commission should, in fact, be seen and supported only as guidance towards ensuring good governance for which, the State has a Constitutional obligation.

Let us join hands to create a society in which human rights of all are valued and protected in our great nation.

Jai Hind!!"

Excerpts from the Inaugural Address of Mr. Justice J S Verma, the then Chairperson, National Human Rights Commssion on the occasion of the inauguration of the Indian Institute of Human Rights on 10 December 1999 (Human Rights Day) at New Delhi.

Today is the Human Rights Day and I am glad to note that the Indian Institute of Human Rights is being established on this auspicious occasion.

All members of the human family must be treated as equal - equality being a human right.

Human Rights are all those characteristics or attributes that are essential to life with dignity. The violation of human rights occurs when any act, or omission to act, results in a conseqence that is inconsistent with the dignity of the individual.

Human Rights are natural rights which are non negotiable and do not depend on conferment by any authority. They are inherent in human existence. Enacting law is not enough unless there is a change in the thinking process of society as a whole. The remedy lies in education within the family, from the earliest stage of life and throughout society.

The acknowledged index of civilisation for each country is its track record of respect for human rights in the country. There is an urgent need to rededicate to the upliftment of the common man and for developing a human rights culture in every sphere of life and in the instruments of governance.

The main objective of the Institute should be to make the Protection of Human Rights Act as effective as possible by reading into it the intent behind the legislation and interpreting that to its fullest extent. The National Human Rights Commission is a complement to the institutions of the judiciary.

The increase in the number of comlaints received by NHRC is indicative of the increasing violations of human rights in society. The greatest need is to increase awareness about human rights because every aware individual ceases to be a potential violator and instead becomes a potential protector.

I have great pleasure in extending my best wishes for the success of the programmes of the Indian Institute of Human Rights, New Delhi.