Statement of VIPs

Address by the hon’ble President of India Shri Ram Nath Kovind on the occasion of Human Rights Day

New Delhi, 10th December 2019.

1. I am honoured to be here among you on the occasion of the World Human Rights Day. We have gathered to commemorate a momentous day in human history. It was on 10th December, in 1948, that the whole human kind formally recognised that all of us are equal. I am glad to see the way the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) leads the country in celebrating the day, and spreading awareness about the human rights.

2. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) covers a wide range of social, economic, cultural, civil and political rights outlined in its Preamble and 30 Articles. They include the right to equality, freedom from discrimination, right to life, liberty, personal security, freedom from slavery and freedom from torture among others. The UN General Assembly proclaimed the document as a "common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”.

3. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted around the time the Constituent Assembly was drafting our Constitution. Late last month we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution. That day, in my address to the Supreme Court, I especially paid tributes to the women members of the Constituent Assembly. One of them was Hansa Mehta. A staunch disciple of Gandhiji, she was a member of the Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights. Coincidentally, she was also India’s delegate to the historic endeavour under way at the United Nations; the drafting of the Universal Declaration. Hansaben was part of the Human Rights Committee there. And she had an equally crucial role to play in both the defining documents. United Nations Secretary General António Guterreswas right when he said last year that without Hansa Mehta of India, we would likely be speaking of Universal Declaration of the Rights of Men rather than of Human Rights.

4. The very first article of the UDHR states: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” At the draft stage, this article spoke of all men being equal. As many of you know, it was at Hansaben’s insistence that the final version replaced ‘men’ with ‘human beings’. Her other intervention ensured gender equality in marriage under Article 16. In these efforts, Hansaben found support from the Chairperson of the Commission of Human Rights, Eleanor Roosevelt.

5. Mrs Roosevelt, the wife of the former United States President Franklin D Roosevelt, was later called the "First Lady of the World” for her contributions to the cause of human rights. I think we can do more to commemorate the visionary leadership of Hansaben Mehta in the field of human rights and gender equality.

6. We can make a beginning by asking ourselves if we, as a society, have lived up to her vision of equal rights and equal dignity of women. Unfortunately, a series of events in the recent past force us to think again. Incidents of heinous crime against women are reported from many parts of the country. This is not limited to one place or one nation. In many parts of the world, human rights of those who are vulnerable are flagrantly violated. Thus, the ideal way to commemorate the World Human Right Day is for the whole world to introspect what more we need to do to live up to the letter and spirit of the sacred text of the Declaration.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

7. Along with such introspection, we should also undertake the task of reinterpreting the document and expanding the notion of human rights. All we need are empathy and imagination. I have in mind, for example, children and forced labourers. Or consider the plight of those put in jails, while they await trial for a petty crime they might not have even committed. Of course, these issues deserve urgent attention to make a harmonious society compliant of the Human Rights Charter.

8. This introspection is indeed essential. But our understanding of the situation would be incomplete if we ignore the other side of the issue, which are duties. Gandhiji saw the rights and duties as two sides of the same coin. Our failings in human rights, as in the cases of violence against women, often stem from our failings in the other. Our national discourse has rightly focused on the all-important question of human rights. It can also make more space for consideration of our Fundamental Duties too.

9. There are challenges ahead, but I am confident we can meet them, because we have an ever-vigilant National Human Rights Commission. The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 led to the establishment of the national and state-level bodies for safeguarding and promoting human rights. The apex institution has completed a quarter century of its journey. It has lived up to the expectations by playing the role of a quasi-judicial watch dog without fear or favour.

10. The fact that almost all the recommendations made by the NHRC are accepted by governments and other public authorities is indicative of its credibility. It also reflects the trust that the citizens have placed in this remarkable institution. Since its inception, it has provided relief to thousands and set wrongs right.

11. I learn that apart from responding to hundreds of complaints it receives every day, the Commission also takes suo motu cognizance of reports of human rights violations with appreciable alacrity. The NHRC responds to and redresses violations of human rights by trying to organize relief, and ensuring corrective action from authorities.

12. I am glad to learn that the Commission has initiated Open Hearings to decide cases of atrocities against persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes (SCs) following the recommendations of the K. B. Saxena Report. Also, the Supreme Court of India has entrusted to the Commission the task of improvement in the condition of the institutions for the mentally ill. I am happy to note that the mentally ill now receive better care and protection thanks to the continuous monitoring by the NHRC.

13. The effective strengthening of the human rights at the ground level is, I believe, a collective task of the whole society. In this regard, the NHRC has done well in spreading awareness and joining hands with civil society to further the cause.

14. On the occasion of the World Human Rights Day, it is my pleasure to congratulate the Chairperson of the NHRC, its Members, and Special Rapporteurs, and Special Monitors. I extend my best wishes also to all state-level rights commissions and their heads and members.

Thank You,

Jai Hind!

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 2019.

This year, on Human Rights Day, we celebrate the role of young people in bringing human rights to life.

Globally, young people are marching, organizing, and speaking out:

For the right to a healthy environment…

For the equal rights of women and girls…

To participate in decision-making…

And to express their opinions freely…

They are marching for their right to a future of peace, justice and equal opportunities.

Every single person is entitled to all rights: civil, political, economic, social and cultural. Regardless of where they live. Regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, social origin, gender, sexual orientation, political or other opinion, disability or income, or any other status.

On this International Day, I call on everyone to support and protect young people who are standing up for human rights.

António Guterres

Excerpts from the Speech of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms. Michelle Bachelet on the occasion of Human Rights Day, 10 December 2019.

Raising our voices is essential to the creation of a future of peace, justice and sustainable development. And this has been a year of tremendous activism – notably by young people.

In every region, people are working for hope.

From the accelerating climate crisis to the fight against inequality and repressive institutions.

From the right to make informed decisions about our own bodies to the right to participate in defining policies for our countries.

I am inspired by the courage, clarity and principle of the women, men and young people who are rising up peacefully, to create greater freedom and justice.

Their voices are the living expression of human rights – a movement that is fundamentally about building dignity and equality for everyone.

Policy-makers everywhere need to listen to these calls. And in response, they need to shape more effective, more principled policies.

We have a right to live free from discrimination on any grounds. We have a right to access education, health-care, economic opportunities and a decent standard of living.

This is about our future, our livelihoods, our freedoms, our security and our environment.

We need to mobilise across the world–peacefully and powerfully – to advance a world of rights, dignity and choice for everyone.

With renewed determination, we all need to stand up for human rights.

Michelle Bachelet

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.

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. ‘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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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, NHRC, India on the eve of Human Rights Day-2019

New Delhi, 9th December, 2019

"The world celebrates Human Rights Day tomorrow on the 10th December 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 basic rights are our human rights. These include our right to live with liberty, equality and dignity, our right to health, education, freedom of speech and thoughts.

Youth always define and shape our future, and hence, it is necessary that we nurture in them the values of life, which motivate them to recognize the essentiality of mutual coexistence, wherein there is respect for the rights of others.

The United Nations’ theme for Human Rights Day this year: “Youth Standing up for Human Rights” amplifies the need to call upon our youth to make this world humane, compassoinate, free of strife and struggles for basic amenities.

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

To continue this mission, as per its mandate, the National Human Rights Commission, India, through celebartion of Human Rights Day, re-dedicates itself to raise concerns on any action, policy or law, which impinge on human rights in the country without any adversarial role to the functioning of governments.

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.